It is not new for the Church to take the initiative to pray and raise awareness for the preservation and protection of the environment. Why this continuing interest? Because the environment is in dire need of continuous care and human intervention to accompany its growth through the essence God wanted it to have. Therefore, churches place the issue of the environment at the center of their priorities, implementing projects that may save this environment from all the challenges and difficulties it faces.
What about the Middle East? Can it overcome environmental problems amid all the crises it is facing? Indeed, Eastern churches and authorities are working, as much as possible, to reduce violence towards the environment in order to bring it to safety, especially since the countries of the region are distinguished by their environmental and natural wealth.
One of many weekly reports we are sharing about the Church and the oriental environment is the initiatives of the Church in Jordan to protect the common home and its creatures, covering the environmental wealth of the country.
“Water… A Christian View”
First, Jordanian churches and their affiliated institutions continuously work towards an environmental development in Jordan. Through the past years, the country was cooperating with the German Foundation for International Cooperation (GIZ) to emphasize several issues, the most important of which is the lack of water, especially since Jordan is ranked second in the world among the countries most in need of water. The country depends mainly on rainwater, however scarce at times, worsening the crisis even more every year.
A group of priests and pastors from different ecclesial families was chosen to highlight this issue. How? Through a joint Christian-Islamic project, a 120-page booklet entitled "Water... A Christian View" was drafted, after the Muslim booklet "Water… An Islamic View".
The booklet was published following a cooperation between the Ministry of Water and Irrigation in Jordan and the GIZ Foundation, where it stated in its introduction that “the Church has made great contributions today in raising the awareness of believers on the duty of preserving the environment in general, as it is mankind’s common home, and water in particular, as it is the most widely used creation by mankind. Noting that the Bible uses water in many verses as a symbol of life and an expression of God's eternal blessing to creation. The booklet talks about the water situation and its sources in Jordan, and explains the steps that must be followed in order to rationalize the use of this environmental element.
The Union of Monastic Societies in Jordan and the Principals of Christian Schools along with the GIZ Foundation held workshops focused on the water issue where they discussed how to help students conserve it and how to educate on its proper use and consumption in a logical and moderate manner.
Other Religious – Environmental Initiatives
On the same note, the concerned officials in Jordan intend to add a new subject in the school curricula about the environment in religious education, especially since it is part of the blessings God granted us. Therefore, the objective of religious education is to respect and accept the blessings of God and the upbringing of generations and make good use of them, for they are sanctified by the Creator Himself.
As for the development of the environmental skills of the clergy, the Ministry of Environment in Jordan, in cooperation with the German Agency for International Cooperation, organized in 2015 a workshop entitled “The Role of the Clergy in Protecting the Environment”, in which participated a group of priests and nuns from different churches, and a number of religious Muslim men and preachers.
The meeting goal was to enhance the environmental behavior of the community. The Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media Father Rifaat Badr considered that talking about the ecological problem that poses a threat to food, water and air is no longer an intellectual luxury. He pointed out that the Church keeps pace with science in the necessary environmental solutions and asks believers to follow the environmental guidelines issued by scientists to reduce the global environmental threat. In turn, the Acting Secretary-General of the Ministry of Environment Eng. Hussein Shaheen praised the important role of Christian and Muslim clerics in restoring morals and values and shape a person committed to protecting the environment. He stressed the need to talk about environmental issues in religious sermons.
On the other hand, in 2016, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media held a conference about "Environment: The Common Home of Humanity", to discuss the many environmental issues and obstacles facing this "universal value". This conference came after His Holiness Pope Francis published his encyclical “Laudato Si”. Father Rif'at Bader called to “fight everything that pollutes the world today and prevent our warm home from turning cold on a climatic and social level, through love, good deeds, fighting against extremism, terrorism and hate speeches polluting our world.”
Environmental initiatives were not limited to meetings and conferences only. For example, trips were also organized from Jordan to European cities, with the participation of Christian and Muslim clergy together, to learn about international environmental projects supervised by churches or mosques, especially in Germany, where the "Green Environment" project was introduced under the supervision of German churches. These trips bore new lessons and ideas for an environmental development in Jordan like the establishment of electricity through alternative energy and the implementation of water channels to reduce waste. For a greener land, many sites and regions in the country were also planted.
Jordanian Environment: National and International Effort
Just like churches, Jordanian authorities play a major role in protecting the environment, especially since this cause has received remarkable attention throughout the Jordanian history. In 1989, the Environment Department was established in the Ministry of Municipal, Rural, and Environmental Affairs and remained responsible for environmental affairs until 1995. In 1996, the Public Corporation for the Protection of the Environment was established to be the financially and administratively independent official body responsible for protecting the environment in Jordan. In 2003, a Ministry of Environment was established under the Temporary Environmental Protection Law No. (1) of 2003, approved by the National Assembly to become Environmental Protection Law No. 52 of 2006.
Jordan wanted to participate in the global environmental map on a national level, to be the first country to conduct an environmental review of the free trade agreement with the U.S.A., as one of the articles of the agreement signed in 2000 stressed the reduction of pollution and the protection of wildlife and protected areas... Jordan was also one of the first countries to sign an association agreement with the European Union in 1997, to enter into force in 2002, with provisions for environmental cooperation and sustainable development... Not to forget the role played by the Ministry of Environment to develop the work program for the Horizon 2020 initiative, contributing to regional environmental cooperation within the European Neighborhood Policy.
Amid all the environmental achievements and initiatives Jordan achieved on different levels, environmental challenges are still far from over, but what are they? Among them, we mention the high rate of solid waste production, the desertification phenomenon, problems in the water sector, air pollution, and high rates of energy consumption in all its forms.
Indeed, Jordan has been concerned with environmental issues throughout its history to ensure the stability of the common home God has given us, but the country also seeks to organize projects contributing to build a safer future for both humans and creatures. For example, Jordanian Minister of Environment Dr. Saleh Al-Kharabsheh reported in 2020 that the ministry was working on preparing a reference document under the name "Jordan's Environment 2030", about environmental affairs in general as it studies the environment on the economic and social levels.