A Word on the Murders at Holy Family Parish in Gaza

A Word on the Murders at Holy Family Parish in Gaza December 17, 2023

a sandstone grave marker with DEAD carved on it
image via Pixabay

You’ve no doubt heard about the two Roman Catholic women who were murdered at Holy Family Parish in Gaza, by Israel Defense Force snipers today.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s communication office issued the following statement:

“Around noon today, December 2023 16, a sniper of the IDF murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families have taken refuge since the start of the war. Nahdia and her daughter Samar were shot and killed as they walked into the Sister’s Convent. One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety. Seven more people were shot and wounded as they tried to protect others inside of the church compound. No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents.

Earlier this morning, a rocket fired from an IDF tank targeted the convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa (Missionaries of Charity). The Convent is home to over 54 disabled persons and is part of the church compound, which was signaled as a place of worship since the beginning of the war. The building’s generator (the only source of electricity) and the fuel resources were destroyed. The house was damaged by the resulting explosion and the massive fire. Two more rockets, fired by an IDF tank, targeted the same Convent and rendered the home uninhabitable. The 54 disabled persons are currently displaced and without access to the respirators that some of them need to survive.

In addition, as a result of the heavy bombing in the area, three people were wounded inside of the church compound last night. Furthermore, solar panels and water tanks, which are indispensable for the survival of the community, were destroyed. 

Together in prayer with the whole Christian community, we express our closeness and condolences to the families affected by this senseless tragedy. At the same time, we cannot but express that we are at a loss to comprehend how such an attack could be carried out even moreso as the whole Church prepares for Christmas. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem follows this developing situation with great concern and shall provide additional information as needed. “

My heart goes out to all the people touched by this atrocity. I can’t imagine what the survivors are suffering and I’m terrified for the disabled people trapped without any electricity.

At the same time, I feel a little concerned with the number of people who are commenting on this attack as if it happened in a vacuum, or in a situation where the IDF hadn’t been killing civilians all along.

I keep seeing people who don’t usually talk about this war exclaiming about “two Palestinian Christian women,” over and over again. This worries me first of all because there are a lot of Christians in Palestine and have been since the beginning of Christianity, but the people saying it sound  as though they think Christian Palestinians are a novelty. That’s patronizing. But I’m also concerned because it sounds as though there’s something especially bad about the IDF murdering Christians as opposed to any other  human. The IDF has been killing thousands of people of many faiths since the beginning of this war, about two thirds of them women and children.  All of them, no matter what their faith, were made in the image and likeness of God. Some of them, not the children,  were probably Hamas terrorists, but a hell of a lot, including all of the children, have been civilians. the IDF only did to these poor innocent women what they’ve done to scores of innocent people. And the longer this conflict continues, the more sadistic they seem to become.

As usual when I talk about this conflict, I have to stress that it is true that Israel was the victim of a horrendous terrorist attack on October 7th. If you believe the conspiracy theories that that was made up, I have nothing to say to you. No one should ever have to suffer what the victims of that attack suffered.  Hamas is a vicious terrorist organization and they should not exist.

People keep saying “Israel has a right to defend itself” and I think it’s a little more basic than that; anybody who’s under attack has a right to defend themself. But that doesn’t mean that the IDF is entitled to do anything they want. And anyway, they don’t seem very concerned about the victims of that terrorist attack, since they recently shot three hostages.

People keep referring to the October 7th terrorist attack as “Israel’s 9/11” and that’s an apt comparison. I still remember watching the 9/11 terrorist attacks unfold on that terrible day. Our president used that day as an excuse to commit war crimes as well. The United States tortured people; we murdered and injured hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq alone. We began a twenty-year war in Afghanistan. And we were wrong. What we did is criminal and sinful. There is no justification for committing war crimes and terrorism in retaliation for terrorism. And yes, I know that the carnage that’s being inflicted right now in Gaza is largely being sponsored by the United States, and that shouldn’t be either. Two wrongs never make a right.

More people than I can name are clamoring for a ceasefire.

The UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly for a humanitarian ceasefire. Doctors Without Borders is begging for a ceasefire. The Pope is begging for a ceasefire. The Biden Administration’s staffers are demanding a ceasefire. All kinds of Christian groups have begged for a ceasefire.  Jewish Voices for Peace has demonstrated for a ceasefire on the eighth night of Hanukkah in eight cities, and they’re not the only Jewish group to beg for a ceasefire.  Israelis themselves are protesting for a ceasefire. No one seems to want a war except Hamas and Netanyahu, and Hamas and Netanyahu are the last people who should be allowed to get what they want.

There’s no way forward that doesn’t involve a humanitarian ceasefire immediately. That’s the beginning and not the end of what needs to be done.

May God have mercy on the souls of Nahdia and Samar and all the faithful departed.


Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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