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Help evacuate suffering Christians in Gaza: LifeFunder

(LifeSiteNews) — We at LifeSite have been trying to get the word out on the crisis in the Holy Land. Many are claiming certain things are happening, others are denying it. The best way to get to the truth of the matter is to speak to those who are actually there.

Joining me for this important episode of The John-Henry Westen Show is Khalil Sayegh, an Orthodox Christian from Gaza who still has family there but has lost his sister and father in the current conflict.

He begins the program discussing his family. His mother is Catholic and his father was Orthodox. Growing up, the family would go to either parish in Gaza. What happened to his family, however, goes further into history than the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sayegh explains that the plight of the Palestinian Christians stems from Israeli actions going back to the establishment of the state in 1948, whereby many Christians were forced out of their homes and their churches and villages destroyed.

The current conflict began with the “horrific” Hamas attack on October 7 and saw Israel respond with “tremendous violence,” says Sayegh, adding that the violence indiscriminately affecting both combatants and non-combatants, Christians and Muslims. “All civilians seem to be under fire, and they were under direct fire and under indirect fire,” he recounts before explaining the difference.

Direct fire is like when the Israelis attacked the Church of St. Porphyrius last October, a parish his family attended and one of the oldest in the world, with the airstrike killing anywhere from eight to 19 Christians, most of them children, three of which belonging to a friend of Sayegh. The death toll at St. Porphyrius consisted of about 2 percent of Gazan Christians. Sayegh also addresses the killing of two women by Israeli snipers at Holy Family Catholic Church last December. When people tried to save them, he tells me, they were shot in the legs.

READ: The disturbing reality of how Christians are treated in the Holy Land

The incident took place in the same area the Israelis shot Jewish hostages seeking help waving white flags, Sayegh adds, explaining that the Israelis had a policy to shoot anyone they see in the streets. “That was a very clear policy that Israeli media has reported on, and they were critical of when they killed Jewish hostages themselves,” he says.

Two days following the incident, Sayegh’s father got sick while at Holy Family Church shortly before Christmas. The family, he recalls, was not sure what was happening to him. With all hospitals in Gaza being destroyed and his father’s location surrounded by Israeli tanks, the Israelis would not let Sayegh’s father access an ambulance. Sayegh’s father died at the church over a lack of medical attention, according to the parish priest.

His family, meanwhile, attempted to leave the area by making the journey from northern Gaza to southern Gaza, which Sayegh explains is dangerous. They decided to do it when others had done it, believing that it would be “relatively safe.” The day they went, the checkpoint was not open until noon because of Passover, with the weather also being very hot. His 18-year-old sister collapsed, he tells me, though they were not sure if it was because of the sun, fear, attacks nearby, or shooting. His mother asked for help, though it did not come since people seen stopping and carrying others in the area are shot by the Israelis, and an ambulance could not come either.

A Muslim friend of Sayegh, however, along with two other Muslims, came to his sister and mother, who had herself passed out. Unfortunately his sister died. When the family had arrived at southern Gaza, Sayegh’s sister was not able to receive a “dignified” burial or receive prayers. She was, however, buried in a property owned by one of the Christian communities in Gaza, but without a priest or family present.

Help the Vulnerable People Project Serve the Suffering Church in Gaza

READ: ‘Hell on earth’: Inside the overlooked plight of Christians in Gaza

Sayegh does not believe that there is specifically an attack on Christians in Gaza. Rather, there is an attack on all civilians. He takes for example the apparent targeting of Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure, with all hospitals, including the Christians ones, being destroyed. The Israeli army, furthermore, is very “precise.” Sayegh says that when soldiers target a church and kill people there, there is a “very clear intention to target everyone who are civilians there, including the Christians.”

This situation, he adds, is not only happening in Gaza. Sayegh maintains that incidents have also happened on the West Bank.

“It’s not only killing,” he says. “It’s the confiscation of lands, it’s the imposition of regime permits that do not allow Christians to go and pray in the holy sites such as Bethlehem if they are from … Gaza, and those who are in the West Bank are not allowed to go to Jerusalem to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”

“There’s all sort of layers to this conflict, and the imposition of this occupation that has made the life of the Christians in general, and the Palestinians in particular, very, very difficult,” he continues.

Sayegh believes the Israelis have no plan to end the conflict. He explains that while they won’t necessarily kill everyone in the area, they will make it so that people must leave, and that they seemingly seek the “annihilation of the Palestinian people,” hence the destruction of all infrastructure and the lack of resources.

The fear among Gazans, however, is that if they leave Gaza, what happened in Israel when it was founded in 1948 will replay itself in Gaza, namely that they will not be allowed back into their homes or will see their property confiscated or destroyed – something already experienced with the destruction of 80 percent of Christian homes in Gaza.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, are divided, Sayegh says. Hamas is a more “radical” and Islamist force in the area, Christians in the area reject Islamism, and the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization are losing support for their commitment to a peaceful solution, leading people to turn to “unpeaceful means.”

Speaking about access to essentials, Sayegh says that the head of the Israeli army declared that water, electricity, and food would be cut off to Gaza until Israeli hostages were returned and likened the Palestinians to animals. During Lent, Sayegh continues, food in northern Gaza became so scarce that the only food available was what the Jordanians were providing by air.

READ: How conservatives adopted the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ to justify the Zionist agenda

The situation has changed, but not dramatically. Sayegh notes that after the Israelis killed aid workers from World Central Kitchen, President Joe Biden told Israel that the situation could not continue and they should allow aid into Gaza. Although some aid got into northern Gaza, Sayegh says it shows that the Israelis could have allowed aid to enter Gaza all along.

“They have accepted the idea that civilians have to pay the price of the crimes that Hamas has committed on October 7, and that is immoral, and that is very unbiblical as Christians, and very unethical from our point of view,” he says.

Sayegh hopes for a peace where Palestinians are not fighting with Israelis, there are no checkpoints, and that Muslims, Christians, and Jews are equal under the law. There are two options for peace, he maintains. First, the two-state solution, whereby Palestine becomes its own state. Second, the annexation of Palestinian land legally and the granting of equal citizenship to Palestinians. The Israelis reject both solutions.

The ability to end the conflict lies in Israel’s hands. However, Sayegh laments what Israel is doing with Western backing, especially American backing, which he especially laments since he resides in the United States and loves the country. He adds Israel can only do what it is doing if they are backed by the West.

What upsets him more, however, is to see “self-proclaimed Christians” supporting the war waged by the Israelis in Palestine, believing that Israel is somehow a divinely-ordained nation despite pushing Christians out of the Holy Land. He does not blame them, though, because he believes them to be manipulated by bad pastors and the media.

The John-Henry Westen Show is available by video on the show’s YouTube channel and right here on my LifeSite blog.

It is also available in audio format on platforms such as SpotifySoundcloud, and Acast. We are awaiting approval for iTunes and Google Play as well. To subscribe to the audio version on various channels, visit the Acast webpage here.

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You can send me feedback, or ideas for show topics by emailing [email protected].

Help evacuate suffering Christians in Gaza: LifeFunder

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John-Henry is the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews.com. He and his wife Dianne have eight children and they live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout the world. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum, an annual strategy meeting for life, faith and family leaders worldwide. He is a board member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family. He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization. He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.

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