We find this article (in Compass Direct) astonishing considering the falsities contained therein that distort the truth and harm relations between Muslim and Christian citizens. It is puzzling that certain small groups, whose memberships number only a few hundred people and which are foreign to Christians in Jordan and to the history of Muslim-Christian relations, permit themselves to speak in the name of all Christians and appoint themselves as the guardians and protectors of Christianity as if Christianity were in danger. For the sake of truth and the general interest, the Council of Church Leaders in Jordan decided to state the following:
Firstly: The Situation of Christian Citizens
1. The proportion of Jordanian Christian nationals currently residing in the country comes to about 4%, and rises to 5% if we include Christian nationals residing abroad. It is worth noting here that the Christian citizens are not imported from abroad; they are Jordanian citizens, deep-rooted in this land since the days of the Prophets and the first Christian generation. There is a Council of Church Leaders residing in Jordan grouping the Bishops of the Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic (Melkite), Roman Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox Churches. Ninety-five percent of Christian citizens in Jordan belong to one of these churches. Due to the small numbers of the followers of other churches, their religious Leaders reside in Jerusalem.
2. Christian nationals in Jordan live a normal life, in various towns and villages, in a secure and safe environment where they maintain good social relations with their Muslim compatriots. The two different religions did not produce two split communities: Muslim and Christian. Christians contribute to the social, economic, cultural and scientific life in Jordan, and serve in the army and in various government institutions on par with Muslim nationals. Many amongst them are in the front line with other intellectuals, and are educationally qualified in various fields. Christian leaderships enjoy good relations with both Muslim religious leaders and government officials.
3. Jordanian Christians do not fear at all that the Government might regress on its traditional policy of religious tolerance. Muslim and Christian nationals, as well as the government itself, are all subject to the Jordanian Constitution. Amendments and changes are not effected to the constitution as a result of a shift in mood here and there. According to the Constitution, Islam is the State religion; it is therefore only natural that some laws, such as personal status laws, stem from Islam. They are applicable to Muslims, but not Christians. To ensure equality, the Constitution and the laws in force stress the right of the churches to establish their own courts, with their own jurisdiction – on par with the Muslims’ Sharia Courts, in matters of Personal Status and Waqf. A Christian citizen, in such a case, has the right, and indeed an obligation, to resort to his/her Church Court; and the civil authority is obliged to implement relevant church court decisions. The churches are exempt from taxes just like the mosques and places of worship for Muslims. Christians have the right to build their own churches and schools, and to establish charity organizations and hospitals; and they have the right to exercise their religious rites with complete freedom.
If problems do arise, as they do in all societies, countries and religions, we, Jordanian Christians are more than capable of solving them with the relevant parties, and within our Jordanian home. We are citizens here and not strangers; therefore, we would never ask for an outsider to interfere in our internal affairs, speak in our name, or defend us.
4. Any Christian national has the right to join the army, the police, the security forces, or any other government institution. The law also preserves a number of seats in the Lower House of Parliament for Christian citizens. One or more
Christian ministers serve in any Jordanian government, and Christian senators sit in the Upper House of Parliament. All of this is proof of the Authorities’ interest in seeing Christian citizens play an active role in government and in various political fields.
5. The Will of the Lord had chosen us, the Christians of this Land which was sanctified by Jesus and the Disciples, as well as the Prophets of the Old Testament, to carry the Message of love and peace. The Jordanian people, Muslims and Christians alike, have an ages-long experience of living together in peace and love, protecting our national unity constantly working to further solidify it. Jordanian Christians have never been exposed to violence or terrorism; to the contrary, they always lived an ordinary and peaceful social and political life alongside their Muslim compatriots. The Hashemite Family, as well as the government, protect with total care the Christian religious sites in Jordan, particularly Mount Nebo, Prophet Elya, John the Baptist at Makawer, and the Baptism Site; the government has generously given Churches pieces of land for free, in order for them to build churches and abbeys.
6. There is nothing a Christian national must fear from his/her Constitution or Government. He/She is a citizen enjoying all pertinent rights, just as a Muslim does. Difference in faith and multilateralism are legitimate matters protected by law. Relations between Muslims and Christians are very good, and so are the relations between the Christian leaders and all the Jordanian authorities. Christians are confident about their lives and futures in the country, and enjoy rights stipulated in the Jordanian Constitution, which Christians in Europe and America do not.
Secondly: Non-Jordanian Christians
1. Non-Jordanian Christians who come from other countries and who belong to such denominations as the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, receive their spiritual services at the local churches. For example, the Roman Catholic Church maintains prayers in various languages for the Christian communities which speak English, Italian, French and Spanish. The Egyptian Orthodox Copts have their own church in Amman. Other Churches address the spiritual needs of foreigners belonging to the same denominations.
2. The number of foreign missionary groups that come to Jordan under social, educational or cultural cover, has increased in recent years; there are currently around forty of them. Jordan has provided them with the necessary facilities to perform the humanitarian services which they ostensibly have come to deliver. These groups, which came under the guise of charitable organizations, have started to call themselves as churches -which they are not – and to ask for the same rights that the Constitution stipulates for formal churches. They also have proselytised among Jordanians, in a manner that has given rise to religious animosity, disrespecting the freedom of conscience, and thus disturbed relations among Christian and Muslim citizens. They have in short become a threat to public security. Such missionary groups have forced themselves on society by all means, thanks to the fact that they are financially and politically supported by certain countries. It is worth mentioning here that the Arab Anglican Episcopal Church and the Anglican Lutheran Church do not recognize these missionary groups as churches.
We have warned successive Jordanian governments of the danger these groups pose to Christianity in Jordan and to the Christian - Muslim relations; we wrote many a time to various officials in order to explain their true nature; and we condemned their radical practices which create strife among citizens. The most recent of such letters was addressed to His Majesty King Abdullah II on September 29, 2007, in which the Bishops explained to His Majesty that the objective of these groups, which are known for their religious radicalism, is to sow the seeds of religious animosity among citizens. This irresponsible practice undermines public security because Muslim citizens might unwittingly attribute to their Christian compatriots – thus harming the good relations that have always existed among citizens. The Bishops also asked that the government not allow these groups to establish a “theological institute” to which they attract poor and unemployed youths, drawing them from our churches, and tempting them with facilitations and missionary jobs in Jordan and various Arab countries. They implant in these youths their own radicalism and aspirations, and send them to Arab and Muslim countries, thereby causing needless trouble for Jordan and Churches in those counties.
Thirdly: The issue of deportation.
The issue of deporting certain members of these radical groups is one of security, and deportation should not be surprising when radical practices that give rise to religious strife. It is natural that the State should exercise its sovereign right to protect its citizens from harm and harassment by foreigners. Foreigners are subject to the laws of the country where they reside, irrespective of their religion, and must respect the regulations regarding their residency permits. If a foreigner breaches the law, then the State has the right to ask that person to leave. This is an act of sovereignty.
Finally, we hope that these groups would stop acting as self-appointed guardians of Christians and Christianity in Jordan, stop describing themselves as churches and respect the Jordanian state, its laws and its citizens. They should stop being the cause of strife, problems and worries to Christians and Muslims alike. We do not need their religious extremism or activities that harm national unity and historical Christian – Christian and Christian – Muslim relations existing among all citizens. We have made our position regarding these groups clear to their leaders, offered them our honest advice, and asked them not to be the cause of strife or destabilization in the society, but they did not heed our message.
Issued in Amman, on February 4th 2008.
(Signed by the Bishops of the Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic (Melkite), Roman Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox Churches.)
To read the original Compass Direct Report -
To read the Compass Direct followup story -
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