RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Believers in Gaza are mourning the loss of a Baptist leader killed during the Oct. 6-7 weekend. It is believed he died for taking a stand for his faith.
Rami Ayyad, 29, a prominent member of Gaza Baptist Church and manager of a Christian bookstore owned by the Palestinian Bible Society, was kidnapped Oct. 6 shortly after he had closed the store for the day. His body was found the following day about a mile from the store.
No one has claimed responsibility for his death. He had been shot twice and struck with a blunt object.
Ayyad leaves behind a wife, Pauline, who is pregnant with their third child, and two children under the age of 3. Hundreds of fellow Christians gathered Oct. 7 for his funeral. He was buried next to his father.
“Rami was the most gentle member on the team, the ever-smiling one,” a colleague said. “He was the face of our Bible shop, always receiving visitors and serving them as Jesus would.”
A Baptist worker said Ayyad typically was at the front desk of the store and regularly answered questions about his faith.
“Rami was known for his easy manner with people,” the worker said. “He was bold in his faith and not ashamed of the Gospel.”
A couple of days prior to his death, Ayyad had told his wife he had noticed people following him. During the evening of his disappearance, friends contacted him by mobile phone after he didn’t show up for a children’s program at church.
“He said he’d be delayed another couple of hours,” the worker said. “He also spoke with his wife.”
His body was discovered the next morning.
Local believers are shocked and shaken by Ayyad’s death, the Baptist worker said. Those closest to him described him as “a hulk of a man,” “dynamic” and “extremely likeable.”
“He was the guy that if anything [in the church] needed to be done, he did it,” the worker said. “He was known as a peacemaker.”
In recent months, tensions between Muslims and Christians have escalated. The Bible Society store was attacked last spring when a bomb was detonated at the door of the building, damaging the first floor. No one was injured. Other believers have been robbed and threatened in recent months, but this is the first known kidnapping and murder of a Christian in the Gaza area.
Baptist workers ask for prayer for Ayyad’s family, the local community and for those who murdered him.
It is estimated that only 2,000 evangelical Christians live among the 1.5 million people who populate the Gaza Strip. The majority is Muslim. Less than 1 percent claim to be Christian. Of that percentage, most are Greek Orthodox.
Shawn Hendricks is a writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.