Christianity in Jordan

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A Greek Orthodox Church during a snow storm in Amman, Jordan.

Jordan contains some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, Christians have resided in Jordan after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, early in the 1st century AD. Christians today make up about 4% of the population, down from 20% in 1930.[1] This is due to high immigration rates of Muslims into Jordan, higher emigration rates of Christians to the west and higher birth rates for Muslims.[2] Jordanian Christians number around 250,000, all of whom are Arabic-speaking, according to a 2014 estimate by the Orthodox Church. The study excluded minority Christian groups and the thousands of western, Iraqi and Syrian Christians residing in Jordan.[3]

Majority of Jordanian Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox estimated between 125-300,000, while Roman Catholics number 114,000 and Protestants 30,000. There has been an influx of Christian refugees escaping the Islamic State mainly from Mosul, Iraq numbering about 7,000 [4] and 20,000 from Syria.[5] Conversion of a Muslim to another religion is technically not allowed. However, there are cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly declaring his/her faith. In effect, they are practising Christians, but legally Muslims; thus, the statistics of Jordanian Christians does not include Muslim apostates to Christianity. A 2015 study estimates some 6,500 believers in Christ from a Muslim background in Jordan.[6]

Christians in Jordan are exceptionally well integrated in the Jordanian society and enjoy a high level of freedom.[7] Christians are allotted 9 out of a total of 130 seats in the Jordanian parliament, and also hold important ministerial portfolios, ambassadorial appointments, and positions of high military rank. All Christian religious ceremonies are publicly celebrated in Jordan.[8]

A 2015 study estimates some 6,500 Christian believers from a Muslim background in the country, most of them belonging to some form of Protestantism.[9]

History[edit]

Jordanian Christians are among the oldest Christian communities in the world,[10] and the majority have always been Orthodox adherents to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which is the 16 Church of St. James, and was founded during Jesus’s lifetime. The Jordanian Greek Orthodox Christians are believed to be around 300,000. Many of them are descended from the Ancient Arab Ghassanid and Lakhmid Tribes, and they have throughout history shared the fate and the struggles of their Muslim fellow tribesmen.

In 630 CE, during the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, many joined Muhammad's army led by his adopted son Zeid ibn Haritha and his cousin Jafar bin Abi Taleb, and fought against the Byzantine army of their fellow Orthodox Christians at the Battle of Mutah in Karak (it is because of this battle that they earned their tribal name “‘Uzaizat” which means “the reinforcements” — and Archbishop Fouad Twal himself comes from these tribes); in 1099 17 CE some were slaughtered by Catholic Crusaders at the Fall of Jerusalem alongside their Muslim comrades; later from 1916-1918 CE during the Great Arab Revolt they fought against the Muslim Turks alongside Arab Muslim comrades; they thereafter languished for a few decades along with their Muslim fellows under a Protestant Colonial Mandate, and in the Israeli Arab Wars of 1948, 1967 and 1968 they fought with their Muslim Arabs against Zionist opponents. Christian Jordanians have not only defended Jordan, but have also helped to build Jordan, playing leading roles in the fields of politics, education, health, commerce, tourism, agriculture, science, culture and numerous other fields.

Denominations[edit]

Among the recognized denominations the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic (Latin), Melkite Greek Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Maronite Catholic, Anglican, and Syriac Orthodox Church make up the majority of Jordan's Christian population. Also the Lutheran, Coptic Orthodox, Seventh-day Adventist, United Pentecostal, Latter-day Saints, and Presbyterian churches are recognized denominations while they make up a much smaller proportion of the Christian population.

In addition to the recognized denominations there are religious societies that are allowed to meet freely, but are not recognized as churches by the government. The recognized religious societies are the Evangelical Free Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Assembly of God, the Baptist Church, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Role in Jordanian Society[edit]

Christians are exceptionally well integrated in the Jordanian society and have a high level of freedom, though they are not free to evangelize Muslims.[7] They form a significant part of the kingdom's political and economic elite. Christians enjoy high economic and social opportunities in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan compared to the position of some, but not all, of their co-religionists in the rest of the Middle East. Christians are allotted 9 out of a total of 110 seats in the Jordanian parliament,[8] and also hold important ministerial portfolios, ambassadorial appointments, and positions of high military rank.

Jordanian Christians are allowed by the public and private sectors to leave their work to attend mass on Sundays. All Christian religious ceremonies are publicly celebrated in Jordan, Christians have established good relations with the royal family and the various Jordanian government officials, and they have their own ecclesiastical courts for matters of personal status. The government has contributed to restoring pilgrimages to the baptismal site of Jesus Christ.

Christians involved in Jordanian politics include; Sami Halaseh and Hazim Al-Naser, minister of Public Works and minister of Water and Irrigation respectively. Also Dina Kawar was the first Arab woman to lead the Security Council through Jordan's seat who also happens to be a Jordanian Christian.[11]

King Abdullah is a huge supporter of Arab Christians and says that their protection is duty instead than being considered as a favor.

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Holy Sites in Jordan[edit]

Biblical sites[edit]

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Al-Maghtas
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Bethany (5).JPG
Al-Maghtas ruins on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River are the location for the Baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist.

Location Balqa Governorate
Jordan
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, vi
Reference 1446
UNESCO region Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 2015 (39th Session)

Jordan is part of the Holy Land and has several biblical attractions that attract pilgrimage and tourist activities.

Biblical sites include; Al-Maghtas where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, Mount Nebo where Moses looked on to the Promised Land, Umm ar-Rasas a fortified Roman garrison that contains 16 Byzantine churches, Madaba that holds the Madaba Map which is the oldest mosaic map of the Holy Land, Machaerus which is a fortified hilltop overlooking the Dead Sea where John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed and Umm Qais (Gadara) where Jesus is thought to have expelled demons out of a man near the shores of the Sea of Galilee.[13]

In northern Jordan there is a small creek where an angel met and wrestled with the patriarch Jacob.

The rock struck by Moses to bring forth water and the patriarch Aaron's tomb are both in southern Jordan.

The ruins of the fortress of the Ammonites are on a mountain overlooking downtown Amman. This is the site where King David had Bathsheba's husband Uriah the Hittite killed.

There are many Arab and Frankish castles from the period of the Crusades in Jordan. The most famous of which is Ajlun castle located in the Ajloun district in northern Jordan. Other castles include Montreal (Crusader castle) and Kerak.

Fuheis and Al Husn are two predominantly Christian towns of Jordan.

The world's oldest built church exists in the city of Aqaba, southern Jordan.

Christian Institutions[edit]

Archbishop Fouad Twal is the Roman Catholic archbishop and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem since June 2008.

Schools[edit]

There are many Christian schools in Jordan that educate students from both Christian and Muslim families. Some members of the royal family have attended a Christian school for a portion of their education.

The Rosary Sister's School is run by the Catholic Church.

The Franciscan Sisters School is run by the Franciscans.

The National Orthodox School is run by the Orthodox Church and has received The Cambridge Queen Rania Award multiple times.

The Ahliyyah School for Girls, the Bishop's School for Boys, and the Schneller School are run by the Anglican Church in Amman. There are also a school for the blind, a school for the deaf, and a school for physically handicapped students run by the Anglican church.

The Baptist School of Amman is administered by the Baptist church in Jordan and enrolls students of both genders. The Baptist School band has played at many official government occasions.

Also De La Salle College is one of the most prestigious schools in Amman founded in 1950. An institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools founded by Jean-Baptist de la Salle. Along with Our Lady of Nazareth college and Terra Santa college.

Hospitals[edit]

The first Hospital built in Jordan was the 'Evangelical Hospital' built in As-Salt by the Church Missionary Society.

The Italian Hospital in Amman and in Kerak were started by a Catholic surgeon and is entrusted to the Comboni Missionary Sisters. The Catholic Church also runs a maternity hospital and a general hospital in Irbid in northern Jordan.

The Government Hospital in Ajloun was originally run by Baptists.

The Annoor Sanatorium which treats tuberculosis and other lung diseases was founded by a Christian doctor. The Annoor Sanatorium is located outside of Mafraq in northern Jordan.

Several Mission Clinics were also founded across Jordan.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vela, Justin (14 February 2015). "Jordan: The safe haven for Christians fleeing ISIL". The National. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Fleishman, Jeffrey (10 May 2009). "For Christian enclave in Jordan, tribal lands are sacred". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  3. ^ Kildani, Hanna (8 July 2015). "الأب د. حنا كلداني: نسبة الأردنيين المسيحيين المقيمين 3.68%" (in Arabic). Abouna.org. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  4. ^ http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/iraqi-christians-return-school-jordan-after-year-limbo
  5. ^ http://www.jordantimes.com/news/region/hundreds-syrian-christians-flee-daesh-%E2%80%94-activists
  6. ^ Johnstone, Patrick; Miller, Duane Alexander (2015). "Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census". Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. 11: 16. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Miller, Duane Alexander (November 2011). "The Episcopal Church in Jordan: Identity, Liturgy, and Mission". Journal of Anglican Studies. 9 (2): 134–153. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  8. ^ a b http://www.minorityrights.org/?lid=4944
  9. ^ Johnstone, Patrick; Miller, Duane (2015). "Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census". IJRR. 11: 14. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  10. ^ Address to Pope Benedict XVI at the King Hussein Mosque, Amman, Jordan by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal
  11. ^ http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/kawar-appointed-envoy-un
  12. ^ http://kingabdullah.jo/index.php/en_US/speeches/view/id/546/videoDisplay/0.html
  13. ^ "Jordan's Historical and Christian Sites Are Worth a Middle Eastern Journey". The Christian Post. The Christian Post. 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2016-04-09. 

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