Monday, July 14, 2008

Iraqi Christians and Evangelicals in Jordan

There are some churches, such as the Chaldean Catholic church and the Orthodox Church, that can operate openly in Jordan and assist Iraqi Christian refugees. This does not mean that they have the same liberties as they would in a nation such as the United States. Unlike the evangelical efforts, some of the assistance to Iraqi Christians by the Catholic and Orthodox churches can be learned about online. However, the Jordanian government remains wary of evangelical Christians and last year expelled numerous pastors and missionaries who were not Jordanian citizens. Jordan has also forbidden evangelicals from renting hotels and convention centers for meetings. This may be out of fear of the evangelical movement on the part of the government. It could also indicate that the mainline churches fear the evangelical movement and have asked the king to suppress them. Keep in mind how the Pharisees depended upon Roman authorities to deal with Jesus.

One evangelical church that does thrive openly in Jordan is the Christian Missionary Alliance Church which was founded in Jerusalem in 1899. It is now headquartered in Amman, Jordan with seven churches in that nation and two in the West Bank. Yousef Hashweh is the overseer of the nine CMA churches. In Amman the church owns two buildings in a central location, a church and a community center. The community center has a coffee shop on the first floor and a medical clinic on the second floor in addition to church offices and a recording studio on upper floors. The medical clinic assists some 170 a week including Iraqi refugees and some Muslims. There is a genuine outreach at this church. The church building is used one day a week for services with Iraqis and another day a week for Filipinos who work in Jordan, in addition to Sunday services. The church is a blessing to the community. Don’t look for an Internet site because the church does not maintain one despite its size and outreach. The church is deserving of support. The Religious Freedom Coalition will begin regular support of the outreach of the CMA church this year.

There are several Christian book stores in Jordan and unlike in other Muslim nations, Bibles can be distributed. However, it is against the law to attempt to convert a Muslim in Jordan just as it is in all Islamic nations. Morocco has perhaps the most liberal interpretation of this type of law, indicating that it does not apply to “equals.” It appears this may be the case to some extent in Jordan as well. Attempting to tell a person of less education or a child about the Lord would probably be prosecuted by the authorities, while witnessing to a fellow college graduate would not. Still, the law is on the books.

The influx of Iraqi refugees has made the situation of the church in Jordan more tenuous. Churches that attempted to set up schools for the Iraqis had those schools shut down. The government said the children could attend public schools or private schools not specifically set up for Iraqis. However, virtually every Iraqi is in Jordan illegally and the families fear signing their children up for the school. They don’t want the government to know where they live.

Because they are forbidden to work, Iraqis need outside assistance. Many sold their homes far below value before leaving and their funds were quickly exhausted. Most can never go back.

Chickens or Jobs for Iraqis?

The Barnabas Fund is very proud of the fact that they provided chicks to Iraqi refugees to raise in areas of the Nineveh Plans in Iraq. I am sure you can read about it at their Internet site as they are very proud of their grant. Most of the Iraqis who have fled their homes in Iraq are educated English speaking middle class people. They owned stores and worked at high tech jobs. Now NGOs such as the Barnabas Fund are giving them chickens to raise and bragging about it. Faced with raising chickens for a living many more of the Iraqis are becoming discouraged and trying to flee to Jordan. Both Jordan and Syria have responded by almost totally closing their borders.

The pain of these people will stop only when the government of the United States admits to its responsibility and assists them to resettle. Our government just will not take on this responsibility and still sends all refugees to the UNHCR. The Administration’s policy is that Christians face no persecution in Iraq, that their pain and suffering is caused by criminal gangs. This attitude must change.

William J. Murray, Chairman – Religious Freedom Coalition

Support the Religious Freedom Coalition

PO Box 77511, Washington, DC 20013 * (202) 543-0300

No comments: