I repeatedly read the article by my friend Fayez Al-Fayez published in Al Rai daily on November 14 titled, "Where is the Jordanian-Christian Project!"Frankly speaking, I did not understand what the writer wants to say as the exclamation mark at the end of the headline raises the suspicion that the project does not exist. It also raises several question marks, because I realize that an article by Fayez Al-Fayez is characterized by being impressive and popular while having a specialty. Yet, the discussion tried to dissociate the Christian project from its society, and tried as well to separate a Christian Church from its sisterly churches.
In fact, the article addresses the Christians and points to their diminishing numbers in the region, including Jordan. There are, of course, differences between the reasons for the case relevant to Jordan. This is attributed to the face that Jordan is a unique case as it took the lead in sheltering and welcoming the forcibly displaced brethren from their countries, whether they were Muslims or Christians. Therefore, the Christians in Jordan did not decrease in number but rather in proportion. There was a gradual growth, slow perhaps, but this growth was also accompanied by a decrease in the percentage of the total population, consequently the number of Christians did not decrease, but the decrease was in the percentage. If we take the number of the announced number of Jordan's population which stands at 11,300,000 then this means that the percentage of Christians will decrease, without decreasing their numbers.
The second part of the article pays tribute to the visit of the leader of the country, His Majesty King Abdullah II, to the Vatican, and his meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis, which contributed to strengthening the already distinguished relations between the Holy See and the Kingdom. During the meeting, a call was made to preserve Christianity in the region as a whole, and this is one of the heavy duties and great messages that His Majesty the King takes upon himself whenever he makes addresses at international circles as has been the case at the United Nations and in the Holy See with Pope Francis, who recently returned from the Kingdom of Bahrain, where there are new contacts between the Holy See and the Arab Gulf countries relevant to their openness towards tolerance and interfaith dialogues through several centers. So far, this is beautiful, and there is no disagreement on the King's visit to the Pope as our ambassador to the Vatican His Excellency Mr. Makram Al-Qaisi described it to me a few days ago in Paris as one of the most important visits of His Majesty the King to the Vatican City.
Yet I pondered--as many of those who communicated with me through various media outlets--the last paragraph, as the writer calls for launching a “national project for Christians in Jordan.” Frankly speaking, I am surprised by this call which comes on the heels of the 100th anniversary of the Jordanian state! How can we say that Christians should launch their national project?! The Christians are an integral part of this country, and if they have a project, it is merely the integrated national project with its Christians, Muslims, and their Hashemite leadership.
What would we say to Odeh Al-Qsous, his brothers and sisters, who contributed a hundred years ago to the establishment of the state that brought together the various sects and religions under the Hashemites' leadershp? There was no project for the Christians of Jordan, except for the grand national project that they engaged in side by side, shoulder by shoulder, and hand-in-hand alongside their brethren in the homeland and citizenship.
However, there is a Christian message carried out by Christians in this country, namely a spiritual message through Churches subject for construction, and Jordan is a model country in this regard as His Majesty the King actually participated in laying the foundation stone of the Baptism Church at the Baptism site in 2009 in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI. The archaeological sites in Jordan also represent a model of this spiritual Christian presence since ancient times. We all have a duty to promote visits to Jordan and pilgrimage to its holy places.
The Christians also have an educational mission regardless of the ecclesiastical identity of the Church that represents any school. There is an educational project that has been undertaken by Christians in this country before the establishment of the Jordanian Emirate and even before the establishment of the Ministry of Education. For example, the Latin Patriarchate established dozens of schools in the cities and villages of Jordan since the end of the 19th century, and this indicates that the educational dimension is an integral part of the mission of Christians. I do not say in this regard that this is "their own project", but it is rather the homeland's project. Furthermore, the same Church established, more than a decade ago, the American University in Madaba, which has set two firm bases of “wisdom and knowledge,” as its motto says.
Furthermore, there is the social presence which is represented by health centers such as hospitals, clinics, and charity organizations including Caritas Jordan which has been carrying its mission in this country for more than 50 years with the intention to serve the poor, whether Muslims or Christians, or the expatriates or refugees in the light of the violence and instability prevailing in their countries of origin.
Jerusalem, of course, is the center of attention of Christians, as heads of Jordan's Churches are also located in Palestine. Therefore, the Christian project that the writer calls for exists in reality, and it is congruent with the Jordanian project itself, which gives priority to the central cause, namely the Palestinian cause.
There is also a general presence of Christians in all facilities. When we talk about 3 per cent of the population of Jordan are Christians, we are actually talking about 30 per cent of the economy that Christians lead efficaciously through all the development projects that they have carried out whose doors are open to all.
In the history of Jordan, there has never been a single institution led by the Church that confines either services or employment to Christians or Christianity only. There is public presence through the seats allocated in the Lower House of Representatives and the Senate, and there are also seats in the composition of every government. This time, which is an exception, we find only one Christian minister, but more often there are always three or even four Christians. Two seats have been allocated from the Christian “quota”, so that they become two party seats, because the Jordanian Christian project proceeds in harmony with the national project, which draws a future Jordan based on the shoulders of the youth and the sagacity of the seniors.
The important point is how we view the Christians as citizens who have all the rights and duties. When we use the term Christians, we do not mean only the religious leaders including the bishops or priests who lead the churches of Jordan, but also members of communities, families, and individual believers, as well as Christian functionaries and intellectual forums. To sum up, the Jordanian Christian project is the Jordanian national project to which the Christians contributes as the Muslims do. We cannot talk about a national role played by one Church without the other, as all of them are sisterly Churches of equal dignity that work in complete harmony for the sake of the country, to the glory of the one God, and to serve man and humanity.