By Fares Braizat, May 29,2022

Over the weekend, an educational conference, organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Jordan and the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, titled “Christians and Christianity in the Middle East,” took place. The conference discussed the current and future status of Christians and Christianity in the Middle East. 

The importance of the conference is highlighted for many reasons, the first being that it was well-timed. As Christians are escaping violence and persecution in conflict zones surrounding Jordan, the conference positioned Jordan as a safe and welcoming destination marked with hospitality and grace for a conference discussing the present and future of Christians in the Middle East. One participant noted Jordan’s position after posing the question of whether such a conference would be possible in other countries in the region. He concluded that it probably was not a possibility due to intolerance, insecurity, lack of state interest, and indifference to the plight of Christians across the region. “Jordan has a genuine interest” in Christians and Christianity, he said. 

Jordan’s aforementioned interest is confirmed by the many policies it has pursued, from the Hashemite Custodianship of Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem to the internal policies of inclusion.    

Christians —  referred to locally as the “salt of the land” or the “spices of the land” — are migrating from the region in multitudes. While some do so for economic reasons, many more escape it due to persecution. Yet, despite all regional odds, the Christians of Jordan remained secure, safe, and integrated. 

Socially, they share tribal identities with other Jordanians, and intermarriages are a common practice. Economically, they contribute significantly to the economy (some estimated their business contribution to reach 20–30 percent of the GDP). Politically their percentage of Cabinet seats ranged between 7–14 percent, and in Parliament, they have nine seats (7 percent) allocated of the total seats in the current 19th House of Representatives.

Under the new election law, the previously allocated nine seats have been secured. The cap was also removed, allowing them to compete for more seats as representatives of political parties or independents running in local districts.        

During the conference, Jordan was also hailed by senior participants and speakers as a “receiving (welcoming) country”. This indicates that Jordan is a destination for refugees from all over the region, especially Christians persecuted not only as part of civil wars that engulfed their countries but also for their religious identities in conflict-torn countries such as Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon.

On Friday, in Madaba at Kawon Café, I gave an exploratory talk to conference participants about Christian Pilgrimage sites in Madaba and its surrounding areas. There, I met a young Iraqi Armenian who came, alongside his family, to live in Jordan as a final destination, cementing the notion of Jordan being a welcoming country.

Participants also reflected positively on the fact that many Christians were decorated by His Majesty King Abdullah during the 76th Independence Day celebrations, including Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem — who was also present at the conference and expressed his appreciation of the gesture. Other Christian church leaders were also decorated.     

Jordan is also home to 34 discovered sites mentioned in the Bible. In 1967 the Vatican recognized John the Baptist Church in Madaba as a Christian Pilgrimage site; later, five more Christian pilgrimage sites were identified and were Vatican-acknowledged. The diversity Jordan offers can go far, and ensuring that it is presented is another highlight of the conference.

As an established destination for Christian pilgrimage, Jordan can utilize its important position and encourage other related types of tourism alongside religious tourism, including a Roman cultural pilgrimage to the Decapolis and Via Nova Traiana, wellness, spiritual, and meditative tourism, and biblical astrology to name a few.

Jordan has a story to be told, a story marking it as a destination for faith and more.   

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan News on May 29, 2022. For the original article source, click here