Christianity in Jordan
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Jordan contains some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, Christians having 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, but their absolute numbers increased. 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. 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.
Majority of Jordanian Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox estimated between 125,000–300,000, while 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 and 20,000 from Syria. 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 converts to Christianity. A 2015 study estimates some 6,500 believers in Christ from a Muslim background in Jordan.
Christians in Jordan are exceptionally well integrated in the Jordanian society and enjoy a high level of freedom. 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. The highest position reached by a Jordanian Christian is Deputy Prime Minister, currently held by Rajai Muasher. All Christian religious ceremonies are publicly celebrated in Jordan.
Jordanian Christians are among the oldest Christian communities in the world, 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 the year 630, during the Islamic prophet Muhammad's lifetime, many Jordanian Christians 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, during the First Crusade, some were killed by Crusaders at the Fall of Jerusalem alongside the Muslims. Later from 1916–1918 during the Great Arab Revolt they fought with the Muslim Arabs against the Ottoman forces; 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 Muslim Arabs against Israel. 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.
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.
Christian denominations in Jordan belong to four major denominational groups:
- Eastern Orthodox
- Oriental Orthodox:
Role in Jordanian society
Christians are exceptionally well integrated in the Jordanian society and have a high level of freedom, though they are not free to evangelize Muslims. 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, 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, current Jordanian Ambassador to the U.S., was the first Arab woman to lead the Security Council through Jordan's seat who also happens to be a Jordanian Christian.
King Abdullah is an ardent supporter of Arab Christians and says that their protection is a duty rather than being considered as a favor.
|“||Let me say once again: Arab Christians are an integral part of my region’s past, present, and future.||”|
|UNESCO World Heritage site|
|Location||Balqa Governorate, Jordan|
|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.
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.
The world's oldest built church exists in the city of Aqaba, southern Jordan.
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 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.
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.
Several Mission Clinics were also founded across Jordan.
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