While 750 Christians take shelter in the last remaining Catholic church in Gaza, Sr Nabila Saleh, a Sister of the Holy Rosary and leader in the community, has spoken of the heartbreaking destruction of her beloved Catholic school.
Sr Nabila, who was principal of the school, received the sad news that the building had been destroyed on 4 November.
“I am heartbroken,” she told Aid to the Church in Need.
Photos taken by Sr Nabila show the school in ruins and the large outdoor playground damaged.
“It is just tragic to learn that the Catholic school in Gaza led by Sr Nabila and the Holy Rosary Sisters’ has been bombed,” ACN national director Bernard Toutounji said.
“For us at Aid to the Church in Need the Holy Rosary Sisters are not just a distant group of nuns, they are friends and partners, and we feel their loss quite deeply.
“This school now stands as another symbolic result of war; all we will continue to see in the Holy Land is more death and more destruction.”
Sr Nabila’s school was established in 2000, beginning with a classroom of 160 students.
In 2023, that number grew to 1250 as the school became a symbol of empowerment through education for Christians living in the area.
Soon, Sr Nabila’s school grew to be one of Gaza’s largest and most reputable, known for providing high quality education to Gaza’s impoverished communities.
Fortunately, Sr Nabila and the six Holy Rosary sisters supporting her, along with Catholic priest Fr Youssef Asaad, managed to evacuate the school a few days after the beginning of the war.
Since then, as The Catholic Weekly reported two weeks ago, the surviving Christians in the area have been sheltering at the Parish of the Holy Family.
Inside the church, Sr Nabila and the sisters and Catholic priest supporting her, provide care for 750 displaced Christians, including 100 children and 70 people with special needs.
“There are old people here, a group of disabled and elderly. Where can they go? We will stay with them. Pray for us, for this madness to end,” Sr Nabila said.
All around them Christian institutions burn to the ground.
The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in a statement, revealed that 19 places of worship, including mosques and churches, were targeted in Gaza during the first three weeks of the conflict.
Around the corner from the school, another Christian landmark, the Orthodox Cultural Centre, has suffered total destruction, as reported by an ACN project partner affiliated with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Concerns also loom over the potential damage to the St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Centre, located in the Tal Al Hawa neighbourhood.
It’s why ACN has had produced and posted over 1.5 million prayer cards for peace to parishes, schools and groups across Australia and New Zealand.
“The Christian population – already so tiny – is undergoing its own Passion, it is being scourged and put on the cross with Christ, left to die,” Toutounji said.
“It is enough to bring me to tears because these are indeed my brothers and sisters—your brothers and sisters.
“What can we do? The answer is the same, but it is not a cliché, we must pray. I ask your readers to pray for the Christians in the Holy Land and the wider Middle East.”