Christian Churches and Institutions in the Era of the King, the Builder

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Christian Churches and Institutions in the Era of the King, the Builder

By Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader

On the auspicious anniversary of the assumption of His Majesty King Abdullah II to his constitutional authorities, the various shades of Jordanian people thank the Almighty God for all the blessings that have overwhelmed our beloved Jordan through two impressive and influential decades, despite the mammoth challenges that shake our region and the world. In this context, the Christian churches, with their parishioners and believers alongside every honorable person, rejoice that Jordan has remained the country of security, stability, fraternity and dialogue represented by the issuance of initiatives that preserved the bright religious plurality and sincere relations between the Muslims and Christians of this country, and made Jordan a beacon of peace, love, harmony and brotherhood.

Institutions for the entire community

As a start, we must mention that the Christian institutions operating in Jordan are not confined to Christian citizens, but functions for the service of the entire society, especially in the fields of science and health, as well as in leading places of educational, social and cultural services. As for Christian places of worship, they are intended specially for Christian worshippers, as is the case with mosques for Muslim brethren.

In the era of King Abdullah II Ben Al-Hussein, we did not start from scratch. There has been great development in the functioning Christian institutions through close cooperation with national institutions since the common goal is serving humanity and citizens as well as serving the national spirit.

This period has been characterized by the construction of several churches, especially at the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ which became a major cornerstone of religious tourism to the Kingdom. His Majesty the King also made a personal contribution to the restoration of the Holy Sepulcher in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in his capacity as the custodian of the holy places in the noble city of Jerusalem. In addition to the establishment of places of worship, several scientific, educational, social and charitable institutions were established as they provide services to all citizens without discrimination, as well as to the refugees and the forcibly displaced who found a safe haven in Jordan in the midst of nearby conflicts that resulted from political clashes or the rejection of others because they are different.

This period is also characterized by the establishment of numerous schools and institutions including Caritas Jordan, which took pioneering steps on the path of love and social services by being responsive to every needy person who knocks on their door whether it is a local citizen or a vulnerable expatriate. This included the 1999 royal inauguration of the Human Care Home that takes care of the elderly and Our Lady of Peace Center for persons with disabilities, as well as other institutions in various churches that serve to enhance faith and promote the national spirit of citizens.

The Outset of the Era: The Promotion of National Unity

The era of King Abdullah II began with the proclamation of Christmas as an official holiday for all citizens in 1999. With this step, we may imagine the extent with which the spirit of national unity has been consolidated. It is the sense of human feeling that all citizens have brothers and sisters under the roof of the inclusive national umbrella, and that they are united in one house. Since then, the meeting between His Majesty the King and the heads of the Churches became an annual tradition during which His Majesty the King conveys well wishes to Christians in Jordan marking Christmas and New Year’s.

Era of global initiatives

In the era of King Abdullah II, initiatives and dialogue institutions have been enhanced to form a new stream of moves that are not confined to the local level but have become globalized and adopted in all international forums. One of these initiatives was the 2002 Christian Arab Conference whose slogan was, “To Defend the Nation Together.” In 2004, the “Amman Message” was launched to show the true image of Islam in response to accusations that it is closely associated with terrorism. “The Common Word” initiative was launched in 2007, which showed that the essence of religion is "love of God and love of thy neighbors." In 2010, Jordan was once again a pioneer in launching “The World Interfaith Harmony Week” which was adopted by various UN states and is celebrated on the first week of February every year.

In 2012, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media was established to serve as an influential ecumenical and societal voice that provides documented information and calls for mutual respect and maximization of our common denominators. In 2013, Jordan held an international conference whose title was frank and realistic vis-à-vis the challenges facing religious plurality in the Middle East. The title of the conference was "The Challenges Facing Arab Christians,” in which His Majesty the King told the audience that “the protection of the rights of Christians is a duty rather than a favor.” In 2014, Jordan opened its doors to receive the displaced and refugees in response to political difficulties and wars, and also to receive the forcibly displaced from Mosul and northern towns of Iraq because of religious persecution. Consequently, Jordan is considered a haven not only for political exiles and the vulnerable due to war, but also for the vulnerable due to their faith.

Historic visits

During the era of the King, several prominent Christian religious figures visited Jordan. In 2000, Pope John Paul II was a dear guest to King Abdullah II and the people of Jordan at a time when the Baptism Site was inaugurated. Nine years later, delegations returned to welcome Pope Benedict XVI during his visit which was viewed as an enhancement of the presence of the Christian institutions that serve the Jordanian community. At that time, the foundation stone of the American University of Madaba was laid. Furthermore, a foundation stone was laid by His Holiness the Pope, His Majesty the King, and Her Majesty Queen Rania for the Catholic Baptismal Church of Christ at the Baptism Site. Then in 2014, Jordan received Pope Francis in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the visit of Pope Paul VI. There have also been several visits by heads of Churches.

Hand-in-hand with Abdullah...

In 2014, just prior to Pope Francis' visit to Jordan, Italian journalist Gianni Valenti, a veteran journalist working for several large circulation Italian newspapers, said that there were two options for King Abdullah II, the defense of the true image of Islam or the defense of the Arab Christian identity. I believe in this regard that these two options characterized these two precious decades of Jordan, under the consideration and care of the Almighty God and the wise leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II.

In the view of the fact that plurality in our region has regrettably been shaken, His Majesty led an open, correct and healthy trend by manipulating religion in making peace and promoting the culture of encounter. He is the greatest defender of the bright Christian presence in the Arab region and of the Jordanian human mosaic that serves harmony, cooperation, and interaction among various religious groups.

May God protect His Majesty King Abdullah II and our dear homeland, as well as preserve our national unity and religious plurality. May His Majesty the King, the extended Jordanian family, and the extended human family be safe enjoying an atmosphere of goodness and harmony.

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