NEWS

A Christian in Hamas touts the militant party’s respect for faith

The Church of Saint Porphyrios, honoring the eponymous bishop of Gaza (AD 347-420), was built in the Gaza Strip around AD 402. Saint Porphyrios hailed from Thessaloniki, but left his home to pursue the monastic life in Egypt and then Palestine. Though the cathedral began to disintegrate in the last century, it was rebuilt over the last two years and has become a magnet for the 2,500 Orthodox Christians in the Gaza Strip. Across from this historic church are the minarets of the local mosque. Christianity and Islam have survived in relative peace as the land has been ravaged by war in the last century. Hosem Taouil has an office in the facilities of the archdiocese. Taouil, who has degrees in economics and political science, served as an executive over the last 10 years in the PLO’s department for refugees and as an elected member in the administration of the Union of Christian Arabs. In the recent elections, he ran as an independent with Hamas’s blessing. «The Palestinian society does not suffer from division and persecution based on religion,» he says. «People did not vote for Hamas based on religion criteria, but based on concerns and wishes to solve mainly social problems. As you know, Hamas won the municipality in a mainly Christian area, Bethlehem. That proved in practice that it doesn’t intend to interfere at all in the way of life for Christians. I don’t believe this kind of danger exists now that [Hamas] won a majority in Parliament.» Taouil said he was shocked when he found out about the illegal sale of Palestinian land to Israelis under the rule of the deposed Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, Irenaios. He says the crisis has now passed partly because of the issue’s thorough treatment by Greek authorities.