Christians in Gaza abducted, forced to convert to Islam

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RAMALLAH — Palestinian Christians have been forced to convert in the
Gaza Strip.

Christian sources said Islamists aligned with the Hamas regime were
threatening the estimated 2,000 Christians and their churches throughout the
Gaza Strip. They said at least five Greek Orthodox Christians have been
abducted and forced to convert to Islam in June and July.

Inside the Saint Porfirios Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City. /Reuters/Mohammed Salem

“We are such a tiny community, but we have become the priority for
radical Muslims,” a Christian source said.

In mid-July, Christians conducted an unprecedented protest supported by the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza City. The protesters held signs that condemned Muslim abductions of young Christians.

The sources said Hamas was playing a major role in the anti-Christian campaign. They said a senior Hamas operative was responsible for the recent abductions, including the forced conversion of a Christian woman, identified as Huda Abu Daoud, and her three daughters. Shortly after Ms. Abu Daoud disappeared, her husband was informed that his family converted to Islam.

“We only hear voices telling us not make too much noise,” a Christian in Gaza City said.

Hamas has dismissed the protest and warned the Greek Orthodox Church not
to appeal to the international community. Hamas officials said there was no
evidence of coercion in the recent conversions.

Christian sources said the community has contacted the Vatican as well
as supporters in the West. Most Western countries do not have formal
diplomatic relations with Hamas.

“The public protest by the Christians in the Gaza Strip is a first step
in the right direction,” Israeli analyst Khaled Abu Toameh said. “This is a
move that could finally draw the attention of
the international community, including church leaders across the United
States, to the real problems and dangers facing Palestinian Christians.”

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