New book: 'Our Lady of Peace Center: A Message and a Church'

New book: 'Our Lady of Peace Center: A Message and a Church'

Latin Patriarchal Emeritus Vicar for Jordan Bishop Salim Sayegh has launched a new book titled, "Our Lady of Peace Center: A Message and a Church".

The book discusses the mission of the center he established in 2004 to serve people with disabilities. The center paves the way to launching Christian-Islamic dialogue and serves as a focal point for religious retreats and for holding various courses. It also deals with the Church of the Good Shepherd where major religious celebrations of the Latin Church in Jordan are held.

In the book preface, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Most Rev. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa says: When we speak of the “the Holy Land” our thoughts travel to the Christian Holy Land across the River; to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, to Jericho and Nazareth and other cities and villages blessed by Jesus, and to which He announced the Good News of salvation. It seldom crosses our minds that Jordan is a holy land. Jesus honored it by His word and presence. God blessed it by His divine revelation, and the prophets honored by their message.

I- Jordan is a Holy Land
His Holiness, Saint John Paul II, on Monday, March 20, 2000, while visiting some of the holy places in Jordan, said: “Today I am in Jordan, a land familiar to me from the Holy Scriptures, a land sanctified by the presence of Jesus Himself, the presence of Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and the martyrs and saints of the early Church.” The various historical periods of present Jordan introduce us to the names that appear most often in the Bible: Aram, Ammon, Noah, Edom, Nabatea, the Decapolis, and Perea. Amman is the biblical “Ammon”, the Children of Ammon’s capital. Our Lady of Peace Centre is located in Jordan, 12 kilometers to the south of Amman.

1. It is a historical fact that Jesus Christ “stayed” (John 10:40) in Jordan, and He blessed it and blessed its people who came to Him whenever He passed by them or stayed with them. People travelled to neighboring places to meet with Him and listen to Him as is reported in Mark, “But Jesus withdrew toward the sea with His disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to Him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon” (Mark 3:7-8). If we look at the map of Jordan, Palestine and Israel such as it stood during the time of Jesus, we notice that “Beyond the Jordan” is an area which includes “Al Ghor”, an area of Jordan Valley located to the east of the Jordan River.

2. The Bible mentions that John the Baptist baptized people in many places, including Bethany across the Jordan (John 1:28). This Bethany is not the town of Lazarus and his sisters, Mariam and Martha, close to Jerusalem, but rather, it is a town beyond Jordan, i.e. east of the River, and its exact location has not been identified. In Bethany beyond Jordan, John saw Jesus coming toward Him. He said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Johan I:28-29). Two disciples, John and Andrew, followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi (teacher), where are You staying? ‘He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day.” (John 1:35-39).

When the Jews chased Jesus out of the temple to stone Him, He escaped from them, crossed the Jordan River once more and went to where John had baptized first, to Bethany beyond the Jordan, and he stayed there. Great multitudes came to Him. While He was there, Lazarus’ sisters had people sent to Him saying: “Oh Jesus, Your beloved one is sick”, referring to their sick and saying, “Oh Jesus, Your beloved one is sick”, referring to their sick and dying brother (John 10:40-42).

3. Jerusalem was the first starting point for the spreading of Christianity into Judea, Samaria, Galilee and the neighboring countries i.e. present-day Jordan and Syria, etc. Despite the persecutions Christians faced in the first three centuries, Christianity continued to expand within and beyond the Roman territories: in Armenia, Europe and Africa. To the East, it spread among the Arab tribes in Greater Syria, in Mesopotamia, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Hijaz, Persia, India, and reached the China Sea. Some Arabs were present among those who listened to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. They believed in Jesus as the Savior and were baptized (Acts 2:11).

II. Christianity in actual Jordan

Christianity spread in Jordan from the time of the Apostles. It is documented that Christians in the Holy Land are a continuation of the heritage of both the Old and the New Testaments. Bible, Christian history and Christian antiquities talk to us of prophets and Jesus Christ, of saints and martyrs. Christians belonging to the Holy Land is the foundation stone of their unique Christian and national identity.

1. Jordanian Christians are not a separate race or a different social structure from Jordanian Muslims. They have the same culture and history and their belonging to their homeland is based on history and the same future. Although they differ in their beliefs, they seek to preserve their Arabic heritage in their culture, ideology, society and life. They thus refuse to be secluded, defend pluralism and work together to build a prosperous future for their country and generations to come. The Jordanian Constitution and laws guarantee them representatives in Parliament, in the Senate and in government institutions. They enjoy the freedom of worship and the freedom to build churches, schools and other ecclesiastical institutions. The churches have their own courts which rule on their “Personal Status”. They believe pluralism is a source of strength in an atmosphere of freedom, democracy, and diversity, in a united society.

2. Christian Jordanians are proud of their common culture with Muslim citizens. However, there are many signs that convulse the tranquility between Christians and Muslims on the popular level. This makes many Christians feel alienated in their homeland. The main reason is that the general history and culture books ignore the history of the Arab Christians. The national education curriculum in schools and universities also ignores the existence of Christian citizens. Additionally, some of the intolerant Islamic movements deny Christians their national rights as citizens. Some ignore the historical facts and deny Christians their Arabic heritage. In universities, the national education courses fill students’ minds with false historical facts, which cause a rupture in the Jordanian social unity.

In principle, we do not expect Jordan to be free of troubles; we do realize that each nation has to deal with its own problems in its own way. This is to be expected since people have different political, human, economic, and religious opinions. Therefore, it is not embarrassing or demeaning to admit problems. However, we expect constructive brotherly dialogue in which we admit ideological differences and recognize the right to have them, yet we avoid allowing these differences to lead to strife or division. Good faith brings man closer to God and closer to man. It requires that everyone respect the other’s individuality of belief.

Jordan represented by its king, government, and people, carries a message which may not be obvious to many. This message is that Jordan is the only Arab country which has a historical, social and constitutional infrastructure enabling it to draw a clear line of full nationalism for all its citizens based on a sincere Arab heritage which is shared between Muslims and Christians. Jordan is a Holy Land and bears a message of comprehensive brotherhood, coexistence and mutual respect for everyone standing under the umbrella of the nation.

Finally, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to all those who have contributed to the establishment of Our lady of Peace Center, and to those who have painted the iconography that fills the choir of the church, be they citizens of Jordan or of the world, or from local or international charitable organizations. We would also like to extend our thanks and appreciation to all those who are continuously supporting the Center through prayers, generous giving, or other services. May God bless them all. Our Lady of Peace Center embraces all citizens, Muslims and Christians, through love, respect and affection, and provides them all the opportunity to do what is beautiful and constructive, through volunteer work for the sake of people with disabilities.

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 09:52
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