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Moving Forward Hand-in-Hand with Gaza’s Christian Community

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27 Jun 2014 By Sami El-Yousef

My colleague and I visited Gaza to attend the presentation highlighting the key results of the Christian Community Survey, conducted by YMCA — Gaza and in collaboration with Gaza’s Christian institutions who worked to plan, design and implement the survey.

The first day of the presentation was attended by over 200 people, including the main partners, key representatives of the Christian institutions as well as a number of guests representing the Catholic Coordination Committee in Jerusalem.

Brief summary of survey results:
Christians are a minority group in Gaza, having very small households compared to Gaza’s population at large, with a total of 390 Christian households (1,313 people) and steadily declining. Gaza Christians mainly live as one community in Gaza Governorate and according to the survey; a majority are described as middle-aged, female adults (93.9 males per 100 females), Greek Orthodox (89 percent), employed in the labor force (40 percent) and are 1948 refugees (54 percent).

Gaza Christians are very well educated where 40 percent have earned a bachelor’s degree and 6 percent have earned a post-graduate degree (MA and Ph.D.). Since priority in education is high, this preference has prolonged the age of first marriage and starting a family (29 years old for males and 21 years old for females), which has affected Christians’ already small household sizes (of only 3.8 individuals per household) in stark contrast to the general population. Over half (54 percent) of all young Gaza Christians (below the age of 18) attend private Christian schools while the remainder are enrolled at either public schools or UNRWA schools.

Over a quarter of the Christian population are considered needy and poor with some 34 percent with no income to cover basic living costs. Some 34 percent of Gaza Christians do not have any health insurance coverage; 16 percent suffer from chronic diseases and 2 percent are intellectually or physically challenged.

The 2nd- day of the workshop included a more in-depth discussion about the results of the survey. Each Christian institution gave a presentation about its work, areas of expertise, the challenges being faced, as well as the future prospects.

  • Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA — Gaza) — has 1,050 members including 395 general assembly members which offers mostly youth-oriented activities.
  • Greek Orthodox Church Trustees Committee –15 member-committee entrusted by the Greek Orthodox Church to care for the properties of the Church and currently oversees the construction of the Cultural Center which is nearing completion. The Center will have a large banquet hall and auditorium.
  • Al-Ahli Arab Hospital — the oldest hospital in Gaza with 80 beds, established in 1882 (Anglican Church) and currently has 90 employees that serve 33,000 people annually.
  • Near East Council of Churches — comprising of the three mother and child clinics(Shajaia, Darraj, and Rafah) as well as vocational training centers (electrical, carpentry, blacksmith, and aluminum works targeting male students and administrative secretary, and tailoring, targeting women students) in addition to other health, educational and psychosocial programs. NECC employs a total of 86 people and serves tens of thousands annually.
  • Myrrh Bearers Society — a voluntary organization with one part-time paid staff member. It implements a variety of programs providing financial aid, training courses, some job creation initiatives, and youth activities, among others. The society was set up in 2002 under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Church.

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