Amman (AsiaNews) - "Pope Francis’ words are a source of encouragement for us and a dual message to the international community: be like Jordan, which keeps doors open to refugees, but, at the same time, help the country to provide assistance and help so that these doors may always remain open,” said Fr Rifat Bader, head of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman.
Fr Bader spoke to AsiaNews about the pontiff’s recent words of praise for Jordan, during a speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. "Our country is a model of coexistence and dialogue because of its wise leaders,” he said. “Christians are not persecuted, and religion is not a pretext for conflict and violence."
This includes the ‘mercy restaurant,’ which “offers free meals to 500 people, refugees and other people in difficulty. For the priest, this initiative heeds the pope’s call for the Jubilee Year. “It is a symbol of what the Church does, and we are proud of that.”
“When it comes to helping refugees, there are no differences in terms of religion, Christian or Muslim,” Fr Rifat said. The guiding principle is that of an open door, which is a “source of pride but also responsibility” for the country.
Aid includes scholarships (funded by the Italian Bishops’ Conference) that "allow 2,500students, Christians and Muslims, to go to school."
According to United Nations sources, Jordan has taken in at least 600,000 refugees. Jordanian authorities have higher figures: 1.4 million, about 20 per cent of all refugees. One refugee in five lives in the Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps, in the north, most of the other are in the cities.
With respect to Iraqi Christian refugees, who arrived in the summer of 2014 following the advance of the Islamic State (IS) group in Mosul and the plain of Nineveh, the local Caritas has led the way in providing support.
Our Lady of Peace in Amman is one of the facilities that offer shelter and hospitality, under Fr Nadim Alamat. "Muslims and Christians in Jordan are outdoing each other in helping Iraqi refugees,” the clergyman said. “The latter fled barbarism and attacks by Daesh” (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group).
In Jordan, “local Christians have had the opportunity of meeting their co-religionists from Iraq who have had to leave everything they had behind, except their faith in Jesus. We want to thank God for they tell us” because they provide an" opportunity of faith, encounter and personal enrichment."
Meanwhile, the annual visit by the Holy Land Coordination of bishops got underway on 7 January until tomorrow.
A delegation of bishops and prelates met the Society of St. Yves, in Bethlehem, to learn more about the controversy surrounding the Cremisan Valley, including the area of Beir Onah. During the visit, the Coordination also met people who had their land seized to build the Separation Wall.
The delegation, which included prelates from Europe, North America and South Africa, as well as several representatives of Catholic clergy and lay organisations, also travelled to Gaza before coming to Jordan, where it visited some refugee camps.
The visit’s goal is to highlight the Church's work with communities in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.