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Christianity in Jordan faces persecution from families, employers and society

Canada, COVID-19, Christians, Jordan

Interfaith

Christianity in Jordan faces persecution from families, employers and society

Traditionally, Christians have had few difficulties in Jordan, and even quiet evangelism has been allowed. However, Christians in Jordan, both natives and refugees, increasingly face persecution from their families, employers and society.

Islam is the official religion of Jordan, but the state generally supports religious freedom. The constitution allows citizens to practice religion freely unless it “violates public order or morality or conflicts with Islamic law.”

Traditionally, Christians have had few difficulties in Jordan, and even quiet evangelism has been allowed. However, Christians in Jordan, both natives and refugees, increasingly face persecution from their families, employers and society.

The Christian church has been under pressure in Canada during COVID19, and with the discovery of mass graves at residential schools, tens of churches were either vandalized or burned.  Although what is happening in Canada cannot compare with what happens to Christians within Islamic countries, there must certainly be an awareness of movement towards the curtailing of the Judeo/Christian tradition. An example of the insidious move to curtail Christianity is apparent in the country of Jordan.

Canada gives ‘Converted’ Jordanian Christian Refuge

Canada gave refuge to a Jordanian who claimed to be a Christian converted from the Muslim faith.  Othman Ayed Hamdan  made a refuge claim based on his conversion, and was accepted by Canada in 2004.

However, the Immigration and Refugee Board ordered his deportation in September of 2018, ruling he was a danger to Canada’s security and  had promoted the “social media agenda” of ISIS in dozens of online posts.

Still facing deportation, Mr Hamdan is seeking damages from eight defendants, including the federal and provincial attorneys general, B.C. Corrections and two unnamed defendants.

Court documents indicate that Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board determined that Hamdan would be at risk of persecution if he were to deported to Jordan, where he holds nationality through his Palestinian-born parents.

‘Conversion’ to Christianity for asylum is not new, many in Europe attempted this during the Great Syrian Migration in order to stay on the continent.

There are many in Jordan and indeed from many Islamic countries who have genuinely converted from the Muslim faith, as the following story attests.  The article below is an interview with a Jordanian pastor who fled from Jordon under fear of imprisonment. Jordanian Christians are not as harshly persecuted as they are in some other Islamic countries, but they are under threat.

Pastor Raed Safadi’s Story (The story below is written by Rami Dabbas, a regular contributor for Israel Today):

Raed Safadi today serves as pastor of Arabic Baptist Church of San Antonio in Texas, but he was born in Jordan, and his ministry focuses on reaching Muslims there and the wider Middle East, as well as in the US. He believes that evangelism is a Christian duty no matter where one finds oneself. You don’t often hear about evangelism efforts in Jordan and the Arab world, but it does occur.

Pastor Raed is well known and loved by Muslim-background believers (MBBs) in Jordan and everywhere else he has ministered. Pastor Raed is also one of those rare Arab pastors who views Islam as a dark deception and evil force, and he as a Christian feels a mandate to help Muslims see the light of Christ. Israel Today spoke with Pastor Raed about the state of the Evangelical Christian community in Jordan and evangelism efforts there, which ultimately led to his exile in the US.

Israel Today: What is the situations for Christians in Jordan?

Pastor Raed: Christians in Jordan do not face any threats to their security and are not impeded in practicing their religious rites freely. Still, while Jordanian Christians have little to fear from their Muslim neighbors, Christians as a percentage of the Jordanian population have shrunk from 12% to just 3% over the past 40 years due to difficult economic conditions. Religious freedom and the establishment of churches are safeguarded. They are exercised in complete freedom in an atmosphere of security and stability, and their political rights are guaranteed in the Jordanian constitution as Jordanian citizens. There is a state of coexistence and brotherhood that binds Jordanian citizens, whether they are Muslims or Christians, in similar customs and traditions .Jordanian Christians have a political presence in the parliament and various ministries, unlike many other Arab countries that marginalize and persecute their Christian communities.

Israel Today: And what about proselytizing in Jordan? Is it allowed by law to convert Muslims to Christianity?

Pastor Raed: Christians in Jordan are prohibited from proselytizing, and the Jordanian government will take action against any person suspected of doing so.

Legally it is forbidden to convert from Islam to Christianity, despite the presence of a significant number of converts to Christianity and believers from a Muslim background. Converting to Christianity exposes a person to persecution and danger of losing their civil rights. There have been cases of converts to Christianity being sued in Sharia courts and losing their civil rights, which compel them to flee the country and seek asylum. In the cases of some women who converted to Christianity, they were prevented by the authorities from traveling abroad.

Pastor Raed recently posted a Facebook profile picture that in Hebrew and Arabic reads: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Israel Today: Evangelical churches are not one of the traditional churches. Do they face any discrimination?

Pastor Raed: There are about 10,000 Jordanian members of the evangelical community who are looking for inclusion in the councils of recognized Christian denominations in Jordan. At present, the evangelical denomination is not recognized in the Jordanian Council of Churches, unlike the traditional churches. After the amendment of the law on non-Muslim religious sects of 1938, the amended Law No. 28 of 2014 did not recognize the Evangelical and Baha’i sects, although it was amended to take into account the rights of members of Christian denominations. Still, the 10,000 Evangelicals in Jordan and their 54 churches are registered with religious bodies in the Ministry of Justice. The Evangelical community submitted a letter to the previous Jordanian government headed by Abdullah Nsour in 2014, requesting their inclusion in the Council of Churches and Christian Denominations, which prompted the government to take the opinion of the Council of Churches, which rejected our membership.

Israel Today: Why did you leave Amman and go to the United States?

Pastor Raed: I was the pastor of the Evangelical Baptist Church in the Jandaweel area in Amman and I established two schools for refugee children. I provided the necessary funding and brought volunteers to provide medical care in the villages surrounding these schools. But this success had a heavy price, as I was summoned to the office of the Governor of Amman and asked to sign a pledge not to talk to any Muslims about Christianity or to preach Christ, on threat of imprisonment. I refused this request from the governor, which led to the closure of these schools that I had established, as well as the closure of the church I was leading. This action compelled all other Evangelical churches to sign the pledge not to preach Christianity to Muslims. Everyone signed except for me. So I sought asylum in the US Embassy, and today am living in Texas.

Pastor Raed continues to spread the Christian gospel wherever he can. The Judeo/Christian tradition in the West, under much attack, has much need of the gospel indeed.

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Rami Dabbas is a civil engineer by profession who works for Greater Amman Municipality in Jordan, Rami is the founder of Jordan’s Liberal Party in 2019 & a blogger.

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