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A spirit of cooperation
In Jordan, Christians work together for progress and find peace with Muslims.
It’s the land where Moses walked, where he climbed to the top of Mount Nebo on the last day of his life and looked down on the Promised Land.
Many lifetimes later, it’s where Jesus began His public ministry, after being baptized by His cousin, John, at Bethany on the Jordan River.
Today, that land — filled with mountains and rolling, rocky deserts and bordered by both the Dead and Red seas — makes up the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a country where it’s easy to imagine that those biblical times of miracles and courage were not so long ago, and maybe there’s still reason to hope.
That’s the message Jordanian Christians cling to as they go about their daily lives. To be Christian in Jordan is to be a member of an ever-shrinking minority. There, Christians of all denominations make up just 6 percent of the total population — less than 300,000 people out of the country’s estimated 6.4 million. The vast majority of Jordanians are Sunni Muslim, with a small percentage of Shiite Muslims and Druze.
Maybe because of their shrinking numbers, Jordanian Christians stick together. They are diverse, representing the Greek Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Melkite Greek Catholic, Armenian, Chaldean, Evangelical Protestant, Maronite and Syriac churches, but they preach, and minister and work together across denominations to accomplish goals.
“Christians in Jordan respect each other,” said Bishop Selim Sayegh, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan. “There’s a fine collaboration between them and we’re the first country in the Middle East that celebrates big feasts together.”
Christian-Muslim relations in the country are positive, with members of both groups working and serving together. According to Bishop Sayegh, that is a result of Christians and Muslims growing up together and practicing the “dialogue of daily life.”
“We have to respect their religion,” he said. “They have to respect ours.”
Nowhere is this sense of cooperation more clear than in schools. At the New Orthodox School in Madaba, for instance, there are more than 1,200 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade.
According to principal Susha Kahwaji, the school enrolls both Christians and Muslims. Other than their separate religion classes, the students are treated equally.
“There’s no need to argue between Christians and Muslims,” she said. “We see them as one culture living together. We don’t see them divided; we see them as the next generation.
“We see the students as the leaders of society who will change things for the better so we want to teach them to have morals and values,” she said. “I think everyone will be a good leader. I believe they will be. That’s what we want.”