A Roman Catholic priest in the Gaza Strip has said that the Christian population there has dwindled to its last 1,000 inhabitants, and he's asking the global Church to pray for them as believers face threats from Islamic radicals and harsh living conditions.
Gazans "live like it's an open air prison since we can't leave. We can't visit relatives, look for work, medicine or good hospitals on the outside," Fr. Mario da Silva told ACI Prensa, according to a translation by the Catholic News Agency on Tuesday.
The Christian population in the troubled region has been rapidly declining, down from 4,500 six years ago, the priest said.
With Gaza being ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas, Egypt and Israel have imposed an economic blockade, leaving many of the 1.8 million inhabitants without basic necessities and the means to support themselves.
Silva explained that many Gazans are unemployed; have only three hours of electricity a day; and face a shortage of drinking water.
"It's really a prison. People don't have any money and the situation is terrible. There is widespread poverty," the priest said.