Story by Reagan Scott
LINCOLN (SNR) — A few years ago, Jeff Kanger found himself called to help Christians in the Gaza Strip during a rare moment of silence.
As he read the newspaper one morning, Kanger came across a picture of Christian refugees displaced by ISIS. As he saw the looks of desperation on their faces, he found himself wondering, “Why isn’t someone doing something for these persecuted Christians?”
After this thought, he heard a voice ask, “Why aren’t you doing anything about this?”
Spurred to action, Kanger spent time trying to reach out to someone in the Gaza Strip to figure out a way to help the Christians there. In his research, he found the name of Sister Bridget, a member of Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood based in the United Kingdom.
After her order got Kanger in touch with Sister Bridget, she put him in touch with Father Mario Da Silva, of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), the pastor of Holy Family Parish in the Gaza Strip. After months of work with different governments, Kanger received permission to enter the Gaza Strip, where he spent a week meeting with and serving the people there.
The Gaza Strip is 139 square miles, one-third the size of Douglas County. The area has 1.86 million people, just shy of the entire population of Nebraska. Of that number, only 1,000 are Christian. Holy Family Parish, the only Catholic parish in the Gaza Strip, has 100 parishioners.
Gaza is currently under Israeli blockade and is governed by the Islamist group Hamas. The volatile area has an unemployment rate of 50 percent, and when Kanger’s family heard that he had received permission to visit the area, they wondered why.
Kanger said, “I told them, ‘I don’t know why, but it’s on my heart, and I want to show these people who are suffering someone else cares and hasn’t forgotten.’”
In 2016, Kanger visited the Gaza Strip where he spent his days with the Christian families there, visiting schools and an orphanage, and delivering goods to homes in the poorest parts of the area.
At the end of his visit, a Catholic doctor who hosted Kanger told him, “Thank you for visiting. I was beginning to think the world had forgotten about us.”
This simple declaration inspired Kanger to start Brother’s Keeper, a nonprofit organization, upon his return. The organization serves as a reminder to the Christians in Gaza that they are not forgotten.
Kanger said that the two main focuses of Brother’s Keeper are jobs and scholarships.
“I wanted to set up something for the people who are living in terrible conditions, but want to stay in their homes,” he said.
Despite the high unemployment rate in Gaza, Kanger found that everyone he talked to during his visit wanted to stay in the area. This is why the nonprofit is dedicated to helping families stay in the place they call home.
Through Brother’s Keeper and Father Mario’s help in Gaza, individuals have been able to find secretary and teacher positions within the church or schools in the area, and donations have also supported a summer camp to teach English to the kids there.
The area has five Christian schools, three of which are Catholic. Brother’s Keeper’s sponsorship of students who are unable to afford these schools keeps them out of schools run by Hamas.
“We are maintaining a Christian presence in the Gaza strip and giving people the dignity of a job and a way to provide for their family,” Kanger said.
Holy Family Parish also feeds 500 impoverished Muslims in the area, and Kanger noted that this example is seen by people of all faiths in the area. “Our work as Christians is seen by all,” he said.
Also see a video from Father Mario here.