Wasfi Tal tackles religious affairs

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Wasfi Tal tackles religious affairs

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

In January 1971, editor-in chief of the "Voice of the Holy Land" magazine (1967-2002) Fr. Raouf Najjar, conducted an interview with then-Prime Minister Wasfi Tal which unveiled his patriotism and his sincerity. At the time, he conveyed good wishes to the Christians marking Christmas celebrations, and talked about the Constitution which enshrines equality and non-discrimination among citizens. Following are some of the answers of the martyred leader which we post on his martyrdom anniversary.

On his wishes for the new year 1971, he said: “I convey my heartfelt and sincere wishes to my Christian brethren hoping to meet with them in the coming year in the birthplace of Christ, the messenger of peace, love and brotherhood.

This question was addressed to him: “Article VI of the Jordanian Constitution states that all Jordanians are equal before the law with no discrimination regarding the rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion. Does this apply to the Jordanian media and if so, is it possible to make room for airing a religious programme for the Christian communities at a time when we reiterate the motto, "religion is for God and the homeland is for all of us?"

His response was: Of course, we can make room for religious programmes in the Jordanian media. You recall we used to broadcast Sunday prayers before June 1967 from Jerusalem on regular basis (addressing late Fr. Raouf Najjar). I believe we can do this and it is our duty to make a new arrangement with the Jordanian media in Amman to repeat this arrangement, or something like this will be in the near future, God willing. Such programmes consolidate our relationship with Jerusalem and the holy places that are ours more than being somebody else’s. What I'm saying regarding Radio Jordan also applies to Jordan Television as well.

The editor-in-chief asked him about the spirit of brotherhood and rapprochement between the Muslim and the Christian worlds with reference to the resolutions adopted by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and the congratulatory message conveyed by the Pope on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr. The question was: What is your comment on this rapprochement to have it publishes in our magazine which disseminates the message of affection and brotherhood between Muslims and Christians?

His answer was: This is a blessed rapprochement. We in Jordan--King, government and people-- have great and nonpareil respect, appreciation and love for the Pope (at the time, the Pope was Pope Paul VI, who visited Jordan in 1964), the messenger of peace, of rapprochement, of love and of brotherhood among all peoples regardless of their origin and colour. This rapprochement is essential, in my opinion, between Christianity and Islam especially on these days because Islam and Christianity are the target of the Zionist aggression. Consequently, their rapprochement, coordination and joint action--through mutual respect and cooperation--is essential to build a sound society and consequently a sound nation. We, thus have to be united to fight aggressive invasion that targets us all, be close to each other with regards to religious, social and humanitarian aspects, and live as brothers working for the common good.

Late Fr. Raouf talked about media and asked him: “Do you think that our Jordanian media plays its role properly?”

The answer was: Our media outlets exert huge efforts on the whole particularly with regards to our holy places. The media is a reflection of the real effort, yet it lacks more serious and daring steps. It is necessary to consider important and sensitive aspects that need great efforts and further attention. That is why I have a new plan to the Ministry of Information that will shortly be put into effect so as to remain honest towards our country, as well as towards the first Arab issues, namely the issue of liberalization of our occupied territories and the return of refugees to their homes.

The interview ended with this very question, yet what the prime minister, who was at the time a "target for martyrdom", said shows that Jordan is a distinctive case, for it has always been a beacon in harmony and cohesion among its citizens. Jordan will continue to apply the Constitution with regards with regards to full equality in rights and duties, as well as the promotion of media to serve in the promotion of the values of citizenship, including cementing religious harmony and what he referred to as the Islamic Christian rapprochement.

May Wasfi’s soul rest in peace. May God preserve our co-existence and national unity.

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