Hats – or perhaps one should say mitres – off to the group of mainly Catholic bishops, four of whom come from Britain, who have been visiting the abandoned people of Gaza and drawing attention to the dismal conditions in which they are made to live.
The outside world all but forgot Gaza’s 1.8 million people after war began to engulf Syria. This was good news for Israel, which – with Egypt’s connivance – continues to subject the Palestinian enclave to a relentless economic blockade.
The Hamas movement rules Gaza in an autocratic and undemocratic fashion – there is no denying that. But the way in which the Israeli government uses the hardline anti-Israeli ideology of the Hamas regime as an excuse to maintain the territory as a form of open-air prison is shameful.
Apart from reminding people of the evils of the blockade, the bishops’ visit to their small flock in Gaza is poignant and welcome for another reason. At a time when Muslim-Christian relations are strained, and when Islamist militants are doing their best to drive Christian minorities out of the Middle East, it is useful to remember that some Christian communities in the Arab world are staying put.
That is the case with the 2,000 or so Christians in Gaza, most of whom are Greek Orthodox – about 200 are Catholic. They live amicably with their neighbours and so demonstrate that co-existence between people of different faiths remains possible even in trying economic circumstances. By showing their solidarity with the people of Gaza, the bishops have given their important cause a much-needed lift.