English Cardinal Vincent Nichols paid a pastoral visit to Holy Family Parish in Gaza last week to reinforce Christians’ faith.

About 1,400 Christians remain in the coastal enclave, from more than 3,000 Christian population before the militant Hamas group took over Gaza in 2007. Most of these Christians live in the city, Catholic Philly reports.

“It is very encouraging to witness the faith of the community of Christians living in that enclosed space and also in the midst of a huge Muslim community majority,” said Cardinal Nichols, Westminster archbishop and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. “They live day by day, and their faith is a reassurance for them.”

Since the militants’ rule, many Christians left Gaza. Christian leaders blame the weak economy, conflict with Israel and the Israeli-Egyptian blockade for the people’s disenchantment. Some of those Christians who stayed also complained that they do not feel comfortable under Hamas rule, according to Crux Now.

Cardinal Nichols said there was no direct religious tension during his visit in November 6 and he revealed that religion plays an important role in people’s identity in the area. “It is impossible to have a conversation with anyone here in which religious faith does not figure quite largely,” he said.

“There have always been Christians here. Their numbers are small, but I believe their faith is strong,” the cardinal reassured.

Cruxnowcom. (2016). Crux. https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2016/11/06/british-cardinal-says-faith-strong-among-gazas-christians/

Catholicphillycom. (2016). Catholic Philly. http://catholicphilly.com/2016/11/news/world-news/english-cardinal-says-faith-reassures-christians-in-gaza-strip/