Priest in Amman, Jordan, fragile model of stability between violence and regional conflicts
For Fr. Rifat Bader regional conflicts an “ever present” risk of triggering a crisis even in the Hashemite kingdom. The Hattar murder, protests around text books and legislative elections, fueled by the propagandist use of social media. School centers and workplaces in which to build the value of "national unity". And religion is not to be "an obstacle".
Amman (AsiaNews) - The Middle East crisis, the ongoing conflicts in the region and the gradual insecurity that characterizes many countries in the area are likely to also have serious repercussions on Jordan, which has to date been a model of a "stability that can be lost at any moment". This is what Fr. Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman tells AsiaNews, commenting on the latest events that have characterized politics, society and economy in the country. The majority of citizens "is against violence", especially if it "is used in the name of God and religion" and is powered "through the use of social networks" that have become a place to foment tension and nurture an extremist ideology.
The murder of journalist and political activist Nahed Hattar of Christian origin, on September 24, for posting and then withdrawing a "blasphemous cartoon", the controversy exploded around text books for the deletion of certain references to the Koran; over the legislative elections which led to the return to Parliament of the Muslim Brotherhood and the significant increase of seats allocated to women, are among the many issues that are shaking a nation to date model of coexistence and peace.
Even in the recent meeting of the Churches of the Middle East, which was held in Amman, the Hashemite Kingdom was cited as an example in a local context marked by violence, war and extremism. However, the peace and stability of the nation are founded on a precarious balance that – as Fr. Rifat notes - could shift “at any moment”, while increasing the contrast between those who seek a secular state model, and those who hope for a transformation of the country based on religion (Muslim) and respect for the dictates of Islamic law.
Social media is further fueling the danger of polarization of Jordanian society, particularly Facebook, which has become a vehicle for hate speech, contrasts and sectarian tensions. It was enough to share a post, in this case a cartoon, to lead to Hattar’s murder.
"The risk of extremism is not only in Jordan - said Fr. Rifat – worldwide no country is very safe. Thanks to the work of the authorities in Amman, the security level here is strong but tensions remain and new ones are emerging. " Facebook is one of them, says the priest, because "it has become a war zone, where all feel entitled to have their say, to repost the thoughts of those who seem to be the strongest." We ask fellow citizens, he added, "to be cautious and check the news, the stories, before they repost them, to avoid feeding the spiral of hatred and help maintain a peaceful and constructive dialogue."
For the director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media Amman it is essential "to promote the value of national unity" and intervene "in schools and in the workplace" to build a society in which "religion is not an obstacle," but a bridge to mutual understanding.
Recently a fierce controversy flared up in the schools of the country around the new textbooks for primary schools which, according to the extremist wing, contain too few passages from the Koran. Tension has mounted in recent weeks and there have also been book burnings in the streets; the Ministry of Education intervened trying to calm the controversy countering criticism of Islamic fundamentalist movements.
"Writers and intellectuals, and even we as a Catholic center - says Fr. Rifat – have for some time now sought to change the school curriculum and to review the textbooks, where so far there has been no trace of the Christian presence. We asked that a chapter which speaks of us, of our history, be included to promote knowledge and mutual respect even among young Muslims ". Unfortunately, the proposal to update the texts, and the debate surrounding this issue – thanks to social media - has only focused on the cancellation of some verses of the Muslim holy book.
Added to the social and economic crisis then is the refugee emergency fueled by the war in Syria and the continuing violence in Iraq. If, on the one hand, part of the Iraqi immigrants have already left for Australia, the United States and Canada, the outlook for the Syrians is that they will have to "stay for the next 15 years", with the consequent problems of schooling for children and work visas for adults. "The emergency does not only involve Jordan - warns Fr. Rifat - but it is a regional and international issue. "
And even the last legislative elections in September have been a litmus test of a nation that oscillates between tradition and modernity. "The Muslim Brotherhood - says the priest – have been present in Parliament since 1989 and have never created problems. Indeed, it is good that they are present within the institutions and can convey their concerns. " "In addition, the new Parliament will have 20 seats awarded to women, a positive increase – he concludes - and then our Christian deputies will have the task of contributing to the good of the nation to the protection of our rights." (DS)