During an bombardment on 19 October, a hall affiliated with the church, one the oldest churches in Gaza, collapsed, and 19 Christians who were taking refuge there were killed, including three babies who died unbaptized.
In the wake of this tragedy, the St Porphyrios congregation felt an urgency to baptize all the remaining babies, so that if they die in the bombardment they will die as Christians.
Kamel Ayyad, St Porphyrios Public Relations and Media Officer, told WCC: “This was a painful decision, but we had no choice. Parents baptize their children in the hope for life and the future, but we baptize our children in the fear that something bad may happen. We are in the middle of war, and anything can happen.”
Nine children were baptized in the hastily-arranged ceremony. The parents and congregation were already gathered in the church, as they have been taking refuge since the war began on 7 October. More than 150 faithful have lost their homes, businesses, and their entire livelihoods.
According to Ayyad, the faithful accepted the baptism idea, because they believed they must preserve the faith under all circumstances. “What else can we do?” asked Ayyad, who added: “We want prayers for us and solidarity from churches around the world. More is needed to protect the remaining 1,000 Christians in Gaza and all Palestinians. We want the living church to continue the witness in Gaza.”