By BosNewsLife Correspondents Santosh Digal and Eric Leijenaar
GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP (BosNewsLife) -- The director of the Gaza Strip's only known Christian bookstore was found dead Sunday, October 7, shortly after being abducted near his home, officials said.
Rami Khader Ayyad, 32, was found stepped and shot to death in a street of Gaza City, the territory's main city, early Sunday, October 7, six months after his Teacher's Bookshop of the Palestinian Bible Society was blown up by militants, BosNewsLife learned.
Ayyad had reportedly been missing since Saturday evening, October 6. Ayyad's mother, Anisa, told reporters her son had telephoned his family after he was seized. "He said he was going to be with the 'people' for another two hours and that if he was not back (by then), he would not be returning for a long, long time," she said. "Rami redeemed Christ with his blood. Rami redeemed the Bible with his blood."
He had received repeated death threats in recent years from unidentified people displeased with his missionary work. There was however no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing of the Christian worker.
The Interior Ministry of the Gaza Strip's Islamic Hamas rulers condemned the murder and said it launched an investigation.
"This grave crime will not pass without punishment," the ministry added in a statement. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the Islamist movement "would not allow anyone to sabotage" Muslim-Christian relations.
Staff members of the Palestinian Bible Society have repeatedly appealed for prayers and support from Christians around the world, said Ian McKay, Bible Societyâ€™s International, before news broke of Ayyads killing. "There is a great need of prayer for staff in Gaza. They have been under threat and violent attack. They have also under great pressure to meet the needs of their suffering communities," he said in published remarks.
About 3,200 Christians, most of them Greek Orthodox and some evangelicals, live among the 1.5 million Muslims of the Gaza Strip, according to several estimates. Despite rising tensions, they remained in the area after Hamas wrested control of the area in mid-June.
There have been occasional acts of violence, including in April, when a bomb severely damaged the Palestinian Bible Society's bookstore in Gaza City, which has been operating since 1999. In addition at least 40 Internet cafes and video cassette shops have reportedly been blown up in the past year. Many of the bombings were claimed by "The Righteous Swords of Islam", a little-known group opposed to what it described as violations of Islamic tenets, news reports said.
The head of the Bible Societyâ€™s operations in Gaza, Suhad Massad, said however that staff members were very moved when, on April 19, over 200 men, women and children from around the Gaza Strip demonstrated in front of the damaged bookshop to express their opposition to the bomb blast.
This weekend's murder however raised doubts about the future of the Palestinian Bible Society's activities in the region, which besides distributing Christian literature, also include aid and education programs. (With BosNewsLife Research and BosNewsLife Stefan J. Bos).
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