The Elusive Reasons for Rami's Death

By Philip Rizk 11-06-2007

Gaza is a place isolated and unknown. Although the small coastal strip is all too often in the media spotlight, this can be a source just as much for generalization as information.

The murder of Rami Ayyad one month ago today was a source for such confusion concerning what would have brought about such a horrendous act and who would have carried it out. It is too simple to suspect that which is unknown or those who seem to be opposing "us."

An AFP article quotes Rami's brother Ramzi explaining his reaction:

"We are not afraid of Hamas because as a government they are responsible for protecting people. We are afraid of those who are more extreme than Hamas."

Palestinian Christians number around 75,000, but there are only 2,500 - most of them Greek Orthodox - living in the Gaza Strip among nearly 1.5 million Muslims, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Gaza has no history of tensions between the two communities, and Christians say they are bound to their Muslim neighbours by shared suffering.

The article also quotes Gaza City's only Catholic priest:

"Christians are isolated just like Muslims. They are scared just like Muslims," says Father Manuel Musallam, the head of Gaza's 200-strong Catholic community, his lips trembling with anger against Israel. ...

In a rousing sermon, Musallam - an ardent Palestinian nationalist from the West Bank who Israel has only allowed out of the Gaza Strip twice since he assumed his post in 1995 - called on his weary flock to remain strong.

"The Church has always been under threat, and it has always endured. Rami was not the first martyr, and in the life of the Church he will not be the last," he said, his soaring baritone voice echoing off the stone walls.

"To those who are scared, to those who want to flee Gaza, we must open our hearts, our doors, and our pockets ... and we must always remember the sacrifice of Christ on the cross."

Some may fear that Gaza is going the way of Iraq, spiraling into chaos and out of control. How would you and I manage in a community completely closed; isolated from the rest of the world; being barred from travel, schooling, and work opportunities; locked in an enclave of unemployment and humanitarian dependence? We need to ask ourselves what role we, our governments, have played in allowing such events. This is a question of chicken and egg and it is too simple to blame Palestinians, Muslims, or extremists without looking at the context they exist within.

If people want to take a minute to examine the complexities of Gaza's conflict, here is a 30 minute BBC documentary that is an excellent resource for this:

Philip Rizk is an Egyptian-German Christian who lived and worked in Gaza from 2005-2007. He blogs at:

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