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Gaza relief effort underway


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist food relief is making its way into the Gaza Strip to help people suffering in the aftermath of a three-week Israeli military offensive earlier this year.

A total of $92,000 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund will deliver food to about 10,000 people during the course of this next year, reported Abraham Shepherd, who directs work in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization. Since Southern Baptist field partners and volunteers are unable to enter the area, the project will be conducted in partnership with local believers in Gaza.

The food distribution is part of a larger cooperative effort involving five Christian groups. The other ministry partners will provide food for the effort as well but also will distribute clothing, window glass, household goods, blankets and other necessities that are in short supply.

“The Gaza Strip has been experiencing a humanitarian crisis for many years, prior to the war starting in December 2008,” said the project’s local director, who asked that his name be withheld for security reasons. “Last year, it was reported that the Gaza Strip had the highest unemployment rate in the world. More than a million people have been suffering due to drastic shortages of food, cooking fuel, medical supplies and other essentials. The recent war has only increased the devastation and hardships for the people of Gaza.”

Details are still being worked out in regard to logistics, due to the nature of the local conflict there, said Jeff Palmer, executive director for Baptist Global Response. “However, it looks as if most food can be purchased locally and distributed quickly and efficiently to those in need.”

The project’s leaders hope the relief effort not only will demonstrate the love of Christ for the hurting Palestinian people but also provide a springboard for long-term improvements in the quality of life for Gaza residents.

“We do not envision that Gaza will be a self-sustaining area for many years,” the local director said. “It is our hope this project will lead to the development of micro-enterprises and community projects that will lead the people of Gaza to be more self-supporting.”

With technical support from Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., an Internet site, Christian-relief-for-Gaza.org, has been set up to provide information about the relief effort. That site currently suggests several points at which Christians can pray for the crisis:

“Pray that the current cease-fire holds. Even more importantly, pray for a just and lasting peace,” the site states. “Pray for healing for those who were injured. Ask God to make available the treatment they need. Pray for the many children whose parents were killed. Ask God to provide for them.”
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Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. Baptist Global Response is on the Internet at gobgr.org.

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  • Mark Kelly