Catholic nun becomes ‘symbol of Filipino spirituality’ as she chooses to stay in Gaza
MANILA: A Catholic nun who has categorically refused to leave her church in Gaza City and will likely remain as the last Philippine national there has symbolized Filipino spirituality and solidarity, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.
Of the 137 Filipinos trapped in Gaza since Israel began its daily bombardment of the densely populated enclave last month, authorities have so far evacuated 111 people to Egypt through the Rafah crossing.
The second group of 41 Filipinos and seven Palestinians evacuated from Gaza reached Manila on Sunday night, just days after the first group reached the Philippine capital, with some forced to leave their family members behind.
Most of the Filipinos in Gaza are permanent residents, two-thirds of whom are Palestinian Filipinos who were born or raised there.
Among the 26 Filipinos who are still in Gaza is a 63-year-old Catholic nun from the Missionaries of Charity, who has refused evacuation since the beginning of the attacks as her church in the besieged enclave became a refuge for hundreds of people.
“She’s with the Missionaries of Charity … They will not leave. After all, they believe … that (what they are doing) is spiritual,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega told Arab News.
“She will be the last Filipino left in Gaza, (and) is a symbol of Filipino spirituality and how we pray for solidarity with those suffering, and for world peace.”
De Vega said the nun is “safe so far.” Though the Philippine Embassy in Jordan has kept in touch with the nun, she only asks them to “pray for her.”
The Philippine government is still working to evacuate its other nationals in the Gaza Strip, where more than 11,100 Palestinian civilians have been killed.
Evacuation efforts of foreign nationals have been delayed as continued Israeli bombardment caused transit suspensions at the Rafah crossing, which is the only entry point to Gaza not directly controlled by Tel Aviv.
Some Filipinos who remained in Gaza are unwilling to leave because they feel attached to the place, while others chose to stay because their Palestinian spouses would be unable to join them, according to De Vega.
“We are still trying to convince them to leave … We hope we can evacuate them all,” he said.