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90 Years, 90 Heroes:
Constantine Dabbagh Posted: Oct 4 2016 3:32PM

Constantine Dabbagh was a key collaborator with CNEWA for many years, spearheading efforts to help the poor in Gaza. (photo: Miriam Sushman)

How do you bring hope to those for whom life seems hopeless?

Constantine Dabbagh, the former executive director of the Near East Council of Churches (N.E.C.C.) in Gaza, spent much of his life answering that question — helping to support clinics and other facilities backed by CNEWA in that troubled, war-torn corner of the world. “He was our greatest collaborator there for the longest time,” said CNEWA’s regional director Sami El-Yousef in a recent email.

We profiled the work of N.E.C.C. in our magazine in 2001, and Mr. Dabbagh explained his efforts to reach out to all in need, regardless of faith:

“Jesus did not help only Christians,” noted Constantine Dabbagh, executive secretary of the council’s Committee for Refugee Work. “This is the Holy Land where Jesus started his mission. It is natural for Christians to witness in this part of the world.”

Two examples of Christian outreach are the Darraj and Shajaia clinics, located in two of the most underprivileged neighborhoods in Gaza City. Both provide pre- and postnatal care as well as general healthcare to approximately 9,500 families. …

At the Darraj clinic, on Well Baby Day, dozens of mothers in traditional Muslim headscarves and long dresses entertain fidgety infants waiting for checkups. Several women have older children in tow. Pregnant women wait in another corridor. A third waiting area is reserved for patients suffering from everything from gastrointestinal distress and colds to diabetes and cancer.

Eager to teach Gaza residents the rudiments of preventative health care, the medical staff has hung posters, some hand-made, detailing the dangers of leaving small children unattended and the health risks of unrefrigerated food. They encourage breast-feeding, good hygiene, especially when handling food or changing a baby, and proper overall nutrition — not an easy task for those who live in poverty.

This heroic work continues in Gaza to this day — and we cannot forget people like Constantine Dabbagh who have helped to make it possible.