Filipino Nun Stays Behind in War-Scarred Gaza

A picture taken from a position in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip on February 23, 2024, shows destroyed buildings in Gaza amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
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(UPDATE) According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), a Filipino nun is the only one left behind in war-scarred Gaza. While all the 136 other Filipinos in the Palestinian enclave have been repatriated, this dedicated nun continues to stay in Gaza, despite the ongoing conflict.

Gaza has been under siege by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) since October last year, when the extremist group Hamas launched attacks on Israeli border communities and went on a killing spree. The IDF responded with an offensive to destroy Hamas, resulting in the loss of close to 30,000 lives.

The 63-year-old nun, belonging to the Missionaries of Charity Sisters of Saint Teresa, remains safe amidst the intense fighting. The Philippine Ambassador to Jordan, Wilfredo Santos, revealed that the church where the nun is staying in Gaza City is still standing and holding masses for the parishioners. Although contact with her has not been established due to the disabled landline, indications suggest that she is safe but has chosen to stay in Gaza to complete her mission.

It is important to note that the embassy has not spoken to the nun since early December, when the IDF intensified its attacks on Gaza City. The church itself has reportedly been hit by sniper fire, further exemplifying the dangerous conditions she faces.

The DFA, along with the Philippine embassies in Cairo, Amman, and Doha, has been working tirelessly to facilitate the repatriation of Filipinos from Gaza. The recent extraction of the last batch of 14 Filipino nationals on Saturday marks the eighth repatriation effort since the start of the conflict.

Upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last Wednesday, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Manila office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) joined the DFA-OUMWA in providing a warm welcome to the repatriates. Welfare assistance was also provided to the families, ensuring their smooth transition back to the Philippines.

DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, Eduardo José de Vega, expressed his satisfaction with the successful repatriation. He emphasized the importance of extending welfare assistance to the repatriates, aiming to help them start over and rebuild their lives.

By coordinating efforts with various Philippine embassies, the DFA-OUMWA has been able to ensure the safe return of distressed Filipinos and their families from conflict areas. De Vega highlighted the significance of this final step in the repatriation process, assuring the repatriates that they are now safe in the Philippines.

While the conflict in Gaza continues to rage on, it is important to recognize the unwavering dedication of individuals like the Filipino nun who choose to remain and serve amidst the chaos. Their selflessness and commitment to their mission are truly remarkable.

As the international community follows the developments in Gaza, it is crucial to remember the impact of the conflict on individuals, families, and communities. By shedding light on the stories of those affected, we can foster a greater understanding and empathy for the challenges they face.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Filipino nun and all those affected by the conflict in Gaza. May they find strength and courage in their mission, and may peace prevail in the region.

Source: The Manila Times

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