Update: Jordan continues Christian deportations

Here is a quick update to my last post. Compass Direct, which broke the story about the ongoing deportations of Christians in Jordan, ran a follow-up today that I personally found extremely heart-wrenching. Here is a highlight from the article:

More Deportations

While it was unclear what the government considered false in the report, the fact of deportations of Christians was further verified as authorities on February 10 expelled an Egyptian pastor with the Assemblies of God church in Madaba – one of five evangelical denominations registered with the government.

Married to a Jordanian citizen and the father of two children, Sadeq Abdel Nour was handcuffed and blindfolded and taken to the port city of Aqaba. There he was placed on a ferry to Egypt. The previous week an Egyptian pastor from a Baptist church in Zarqa was arrested, held for three days and also returned to Egypt by ship from the port city of Aqaba. The pastor, 43, is married to a Jordanian woman and the father of three children.

If these pastors were working for legally registered churches why would you deport them in such a humiliating manner? The response of Acting Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh to the initial Compass Direct article was: "The authorities have deported a number of people who entered the country under the pretext of performing voluntary work but were spotted carrying out missionary activities."

Was this really the case in the issue of Sadeq Abdel Nour? I wonder.

Frankly, I find these to be dark times for Christians in Jordan. There are obviously discrepancies between what the Jordanian government is saying and what’s actually happening on the ground. The government needs to be more transparent. Handcuffing, blindfolding and deporting a pastor with no explanation should not happen in Jordan or any country that claims to respect basic human rights. I’m angry and disappointed.

31 Comments

  1. xxx February 26, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    When Shiites were being deported and harassed, no one spoke out. How come?

    Reply
  2. natasha February 26, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Hi XXX,
    I never heard of the Shia deportation in Jordan. Can you provide me with some info if that’s possible. A link to a news article, maybe.

    Reply
  3. Onzlo February 26, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Oh give me a break.. and when was the last time you actually lived in Jordan?

    Reply
  4. Hamzeh N. February 26, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    The response of Acting Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh to the initial Compass Direct article was: “The authorities have deported a number of people who entered the country under the pretext of performing voluntary work but were spotted carrying out missionary activities.”

    This begs the question: has there ever been a case where someone was granted a visa to Jordan or a permit to stay in Jordan with a stated purpose of carrying out missionary activities? Also, is there a law against carrying out such activities in Jordan?

    Reply
  5. natasha February 26, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Onzlo,
    Here is the answer to your question: Three years ago. What does this have to do with deporting Christian pastors?

    Reply
  6. Thom February 26, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I’m sure she has friends and likely family there as well affected by all this. And perhaps the fact that she’s ‘not’ living there bears some mention as well, as the number of Christians in Jordan continues to shrink and the reasons become more and more explicit.

    Reply
  7. Markus February 27, 2008 at 3:16 am

    evangilists are zionists i hope they are all deported and never return, as a Christian Jordanian I support the government with these actions and I consider them Great days for true Christians in Jordan, may Jesus bless our King.

    Reply
  8. kinzi February 27, 2008 at 3:38 am

    Brother Sadeq, like most evangelical pastors I know, is too busy preparing sermons, settling inter-church conflicts, visiting the sick and opening his home to his flock to be participating in ‘missionary activity’.

    He was deported in his PAJAMAS, btw.

    Onzlo, hey, you are usually a pretty even-keeled guy. What gives with the edge? You think Natasha is making this up?

    Hamzeh, when a church has invited foreigners to serve, I think their aqaameh says “qasiis”.

    Reply
  9. Craig February 27, 2008 at 4:00 am

    evangilists are zionists i hope they are all deported and never return, as a Christian Jordanian I support the government with these actions and I consider them Great days for true Christians in Jordan, may Jesus bless our King.

    Markus, pretty much all Christians are called upon to spread the word. If the only Christians who are accepted in Jordan are the ones who don’t, then it isn’t the “true” Christians that are accepted there, is it? Just something to think about.

    Reply
  10. bambam February 27, 2008 at 4:26 am

    @xxx
    rumours are different than actual cases, harassed perhaps but so are a lot of others so its not exclusive to shiites

    @hamzeh N
    yes there is a law against conversion, so missionary activities are limited to within the Christian community. so although i don’t know of any specific case but i bet the jordanian christian community would be outraged.

    @thom
    the foreign christian community might be shrinking, but thats foreign so saying that it is shrinking is baseless … crap

    @Markus
    look no further than this comment for the reason, and who worked to get them deported 😀 <-- it was the reason i commented

    Reply
  11. jareer February 27, 2008 at 4:49 am

    So, let me ask you folks first : What does preaching the gospel [evengalizing] mean?
    I can simply preach the gospel more than one way.
    First: When I say I am a Christian, and follow our Lord Jesus Christ, this is preaching. When I live a life that matches what I believe and people notice the difference; a life that shows love, compassion and real belief in our Lord and his book, the gospel, then I am preaching [Jesus says: Let your light shine before people so they can see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in heaven] . You can not deny me preaching this way; it is rather a challange for me and for all who call themselves Christians to preach this way. I am sure charities as well follow this principle .
    Second: In churches, pastors and leaders are used to asking people after giving a sermon or so to make a decision and to follow a certain aspect of Jesus life: to help the poor, to visit prisoners,to pray for others, to repent, etc. You can deny me this preaching method by simply not showing up at my church, or, if you prefer, bring your police to the door and them check the ID. ID’s have the religion on them in Jordan; how humane and democratic !
    Jesus says:” Go you to all of the world, and preach my gospel to every creature !”
    If you say you believe in Jesus, so why on earth are you afraid of me telling you more about Him !

    Reply
  12. kinzi February 27, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Bambam, actually, the Christian community has been on a steady decline for years due lower birth rates and high rate of emigration. Between 1970 and 2000, the Christian population dropped by half: from 5.5% to 2.75%

    Jareer, that is a good point.

    Reply
  13. bambam February 27, 2008 at 7:16 am

    @jareer
    hehe you are welcome to do so, atleast in my book 😀 would you extend that to a protestant or a JW or a mormon or a quaker to preach their version to you ?
    the line is drawn when there is a door to door evangelism(proselytism)(charity and evangelism(proselytism) need to be separate. you would do them out of your personal belief to help others not for their salvation in the after life from an outsider point of view) and pure evangelism in the sense of stopping random ppl and preaching to them out of the blue.
    this an endemic struggle not a pandemic religious one

    @kinzi
    I relish on nuances, he said number not percentage. the number hasn’t shrunk by any measure. percentage (est) as of 2001 is 6% – 7% it dropped from about 18-19% in the early 1900’s

    Reply
  14. onzlo February 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Natasha: That has a lot to do with this because being away does tend to make things seem alot bigger in one’s mind than they are, your post was written in a way that suggests that Christians i.e. Jordanian citizens who happen to be Christian are being harassed and deported from their country, which is far from the truth and both you and I know it – yes there might be some tensions these days because of the general political situation in the world and the region, but to act like Christians are being persecuted in Jordan of all places is a lie when we all know that Christians are disproportionately highly represented in government, business, arts etc… to make a big fuss out of a small matter will only serve to create resentment.

    Thom: affected by all this what? The number of Christians in Jordan does not shrink, it is the proportion of Jordanian Christians in the population that are shrinking because of well documented reasons mentioned by kinzi, believe me if visas where easier to come by then you would have alot more of Jordan’s Muslim population immigrating, also for economic reasons. As for Natasha while it is hardly my position to speculate, im guessing she did not move away due to ‘persecution’ as you seem to be suggesting but because she married an American and went to work abroad, in any case she knows that she is free to return to her country at any time, just like any Christian Jordanian citizen is free to have 298147 babies and to move back to the country.

    Kinzi: Thank you and I think I still am a pretty even-keeled guy, but it might be that due to your personal stake in this matter this one touches a raw nerve. I’ll admit that im not too interested in religion be it Muslim, Christian or Buddhist, but to each his own. What I am interested in is the stability of Jordan and its society and in a time when global political discourse has regressed to being addressed in terms of (sometimes thinly veiled) religious ideologies, we in Jordan have so far managed to minimise the divisive effect of this but we are not immune. So when you get foreigners who come to the country with the sole aim of spreading what is in effect an alien religion (I mean it is alien to the majority of Jordanian Christians as well), and when this also in many cases contains political aims which are in total disagreement with the identity of Jordan as an Arab (and dare I admit it, Muslim) state. Then I am against these people, because of their divisive effect and so is every Jordanian Christian that I know, and so should be everyone else who cares about Jordan and its citizens – whatever their religion. In any case if what the government says is right (that will be a first) then these people have breached immigration rules and should be deported – that said I don’t support the use of force or intimidation ever and if it is true that this Egyptian pastor was married to a Jordanian woman then he should bring a case before the courts.

    Reply
  15. natasha February 27, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Onzlo,
    The issue is more than deporting “foreign missionaries” The issue in my humble opinion is more about targeting non-mainstream local churches in Jordan, i.e protestant/evangelical churches. By targeting I mean, expelling their priests who are actually Arabs and who have been working legally in the country for ages. They are not alien to the country as the existence of protestant churches in Jordan go back to the early 1900’s if not before. I had heard about this even before the Compass article from sources in Jordan. This is new, Onzlo, and it is a an alarming trend, at least to me as a mere Jordanian observer who really cares about my country.

    The issue snowballed following the statement by of the Council of Churches – which referred to evangelical churches as “illegitimate” thus creating this tension between Jordanian Christians themselves. If the information in the article above is true then the statement was issued after the Council was approached by officials from the government.

    The questions is why? And why now? Everyone co-existed happily to some degree. Why target these churches now? As a Jordanian, I feel I need an explanation.

    Reply
  16. The Informer February 27, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Let us speak plainly here, to truly flesh out the problem. Many may have issues with what they perceive as different ways of worshiping within the Christian faith. While differences exist, they shouldn’t be given root enough that they begin to divide and divorce commonalities. Allowing passions to be manipulated could threaten many things.

    Let’s examine this issue in the bright light of day. The government has grown concerned with the influx of Iraqi Christians to the kingdom. The refugee situation is a crisis. As a smaller part of that refugee crisis, Iraqi Christians have sought safe haven from real and specific threats at home. They have found a safe haven in the kingdom. But many are not a part of the big three Christian faiths here – Armenian, Catholic, Greek Orthodox.

    Why has their presence caused concern? As is well known by most, the big three Christian faiths in Jordan do little to shake the tree of inter-religious relationships; everyone works to get along. The nature of their worship is more structured, more rote if you will – no judgment here, simply truth. The relationship between parishioner and God is less direct than that presented in say, protestant faiths, which proffer a direct connection to the Creator.

    These ‘foreign’ faiths, which in some circles are referred to as ‘charismatic’ churches or evangelical but in many cases are simply protestant, have existed in Jordan alongside the big three for many years with little interference from the government and only mild irritation (perhaps?) on the part of the big three. The ‘personal’ path to salvation they present can be very appealing but in smaller numbers it didn’t represent a real threat until arriving Iraqi Christians swelled the ranks. The threat they bring comes in the form of ‘conversion.’

    History has shown how more severe ‘conversions’ can work. It has been noted here that past Christian conversions are not a thing to be proud of; few would argue the point. As time has passed, methods moderated. These newer churches present a more appealing path to many, both those within the faith, but more significantly to those outside the faith, in this case those following Islam.

    Let us be honest here, the deportations began in earnest because of this.

    It is illegal in Jordan to convert from Islam to Christianity. Converts risk deportation and have, in fact, been deported and worse in the past. But the threat of such conversions appears to have been — at least in some minds — much less before than it is today.

    Here is the twist: Now that there is real fear of this threat, actions were taken and those taking action needed a way to cover their tracks. They knew such a boldfaced action would face cause considerable backlash. So the big three traditional churches were called upon to legitimize the government’s actions. They were trotted out to call these protestant churches “illegitimate.”

    But it seems clear they are being used. The traditional churches may have some issues with the more charismatic churches that are pulling some of their members into these protestant flocks. Many of their issues could be argued as quite legitimate. But they are issues that should be dealt with inside, without government intervention. Who wants the government enforcing how you choose to worship? Combine the issues the big three have had with these new churches with the reality of their ever shifting and shrinking power base and you see a group ripe for exploitation.

    Yes, it is clear that the three established churches are being exploited by the government for their own ends – they never made such a claim as they offer now before. One must ask the simple question again: Why now?

    The results should be scary for anyone of any faith. Church leaders plucked from their homes and deported in their pajamas on trumped up charges. Muhabbart threatening people, exploiting informants, spreading rumors and working to weed out those deemed to be “proselytizing,” – a key to all of this. If it is every fully unearthed such a term will likely be used to justify the deportations. To ‘proselytize’ is seen as the most direct and overt attempt to bring someone over to your faith.

    This is an issue of Muslim conversion.

    This is important to note because the big three churches concerns are rooted in something entirely different, a different word: Evangelism, where a member of their church leaves for another Christian faith. Proselytizing is a word and concept that is often used to legitimize a fight against a faith, based up on the cultish ideas and extremism associated with the word. Truth be told, Jesus asked his disciples to proselytize.

    But this is just semantics. The facts are simply this: The Armenian, Catholic, and Orthodox churches are being used by the government to legitimize the deportation of Christians and churches seen as threats because of the real or perceived threat of Muslim conversion. The churches apparently bought into this because they’ve been frustrated by the evangelism and saw this as an opportunity to pull a thorn from their side.

    But all should be frightfully aware of what a slippery slope this is. Regardless of faith, no one should support the actions of a government that feels it is the arbiter of faith. Issues of faith should be resolved amongst the faithful, of every stripe, through dialogue and understanding.

    The path now tread is indeed scary. Sanctimony from any member of the big three, should disappear and be replaced by fear and outrage that someone of common belief is being called out and punished in the manner described, else they may be next. Those outside the faith should feel the same. Check your history books; this type of behavior should scare anyone. Surely a better solution exists. But so long as the truth about WHY this is being done and the reasons the big three churches are supporting it remains unspoken, it is unlikely to stop.

    Reply
  17. Arabi February 27, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    “They have found a safe haven in the kingdom. But many are not a part of the big three Christian faiths here – Armenian, Catholic, Greek Orthodox.”

    I started reading your response to this issue, until I saw the statement above. Since when is Armenian a major church in Jordan? lol

    Reply
  18. jareer February 27, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Even the Armenians are against Evangelicals ! inta habeebti ma fe ilik ordon.

    Reply
  19. Nadirr February 27, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Natasha,
    I assure you that as a Christian Jordanian I was harrassed and inturegated by the officials for being” active” in my church. They asked me lots of questions about churches, names, church leaders etc. It is not only about foreigners. If it happens once, it will happen to others and twice, three times and then becomes normal and accepted practice. This has to stop.

    Reply
  20. The Informer February 27, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    The Council of Churches that issued the statement calling these other churches ‘illegitimate’ is comprised of leaders from the Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches; in short Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches. ‘Big’ was being used pejoratively, that is “having a disparaging, derogatory, or belittling effect or force.” Don’t worry, one day you’ll grow up and understand the nuance of language and the science of sarcasm.

    Reply
  21. Arabi February 27, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    You said big and you meant big, you made a mistake so accept it and move on.

    Reply
  22. Craig February 28, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Onzlo,

    believe me if visas where easier to come by then you would have alot more of Jordan’s Muslim population immigrating, also for economic reasons.

    Where would they immigrate to? It’s only a matter of time before Jordanian Muslims start getting deported from Christian countries. for the crime of being Jordanian Muslims. Suck it up. It’s all good. Who needs freedom of religion?

    Reply
  23. The Informer February 28, 2008 at 1:35 am

    To set the record straight for those that believe Christians are 6-7% of Jordan’s population, why not peruse some actual research rather than offer supposition (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71424.htm). Those figures have been and remain important.

    The Christian community suffered a numerical freefall over the last few decades due to lower birth rates, high rates of emigration, an influx of Muslim refugees and the rise of politicized Islam. From 1970-2000 Jordan’s Christian population dropped by one half — from 5.5 to 2.75% of the population (http://www.srginc.org/jordan.html).

    The BBC’s research found that official government figures estimate 4% of the population to be Christian, but according to a US State Department report, government and Christian officials privately estimate the true figure to be closer to 3%. The World Christian Database estimates the Christian population to be 168,000. The World Bank puts the population at 5.4m (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/middle_east/4499668.stm).

    Percentages or raw figures make little difference, the amount of Christians in the kingdom has been shrinking .. that is until recently. And that’s important here. Aside from setting the record straight on this hotly contested figure, why is this of note?

    According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, combined, there are about 2.25 million Iraqi refugees between Jordan and Syria. Christians, although composing less than five percent of the Iraqi population, make up 20 percent of the refugee population in Jordan and Syria. Let’s do the math: 20% of 2.25 million equals about 450,000. They aren’t all in Jordan and these are estimates, but this number is more than double the current number of total Christians in Jordan before the influx.

    Of equal note: many within the 450,000 are not part of the ‘legitimate’ churches. That points to a shift in power by sheer number. More importantly, this increase is changing the makeup of the kingdom, reversing a slide of Christians out of the country, potentially changing the ranks of the big three. And, worse in the eyes of some, these new ‘illegitimate’ Christians from next door are more likely to be evangelical or proselytizing Christians and/or more open to becoming so.

    These ‘illegitimate’ faiths have existed for some time, so why now. This influx and it’s threat to the status quo is the ‘why’ of the government’s actions and the Churches’ backing.

    Reviewing a bit of valid research on Christians in the kingdom from Mohanna Haddad, pulled from an article in “The Muslim Word” entitled “Detribalizing and Retribalizing. The Double Role of Churches among Christian Arabs in Jordan: A Study in the Anthropology of Religion.”

    “Proselytism in Jordan http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2065/is_4_50/ai_53631774/pg_1

    As noted earlier, proselytizing among the Christian population of Jordan has been taking place since the first half of the 19th century. The first group of missionaries to be established were Roman Catholics. Among the reasons for this was the presence of the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem and the establishment of a Roman Catholic seminary in Beit Jala (Palestine) which qualified people for the priesthood, recruiting them from different parts of Palestine and Syria, including Lebanon. Yet it was only in the third quarter of the 19th century that this missionary activity became effective, when a group was sent to al-Salt. That mission became active, establishing centres at al-Karak and el-Husn in 1887 and spreading throughout the country from here.

    By the turn of the century there were four groups of missionaries working in Jordan: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Greek Catholics (or Melchites). After the establishment of the state of Jordan, the Baptist church entered the country in 1946, establishing the first hospital in Ajlun in the north. In the 1960s they were followed by Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, though the latter group soon disappeared. As noted, Christian missionary work in Jordan has taken place only among Christians. Since these were in the beginning essentially adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church, it can be said that the growth of all other Christian communities has been at the expense of the Greek Orthodox.

    The interesting question is: what has motivated Jordanian Christians to convert to other Christian churches? A satisfactory answer to this difficult question would require considerable research and study into socio-cultural and economic circumstances. From my own studies of Christians in two different communities in Jordan it is evident that the socio-cultural conditions were the most pressing factors in leading individuals to take the step of converting. Studies of proselytism may tend to concentrate on the religious-psychological factors, but these factors are closely connected to social and cultural realities; and we may conclude that wider and deeper studies are needed in order to say something convincing on this issue.

    This is where the commonalities between the government actors and the Council of Churches come to light. The Council fears the erosion of its power, of its base. The ‘illegitimate’ — Arabi: pejorative — churches always represented a threat but it was relatively small. That has changed with the arrival of Iraqi Christians. The government has had little to fear from the Council’s churches, as the nature of their worship and the complex interrelationship of religions in the kingdom meant ‘conversion’ was not a perceived “threat.” It appears, that some in the government believe that too is changing or could change.

    Hence we have two separate parties with two separate fears uniting against a common enemy. The disturbing part is that this is over a faith issue and an instrument of government is involved. The actions of some within these ‘illegitimate’ faiths surely do deserve criticism for their actions. But previously, when churches in the kingdom faced these issues they did not have a partner willing to do what the government is now doing, the dirty work. Historically, they managed to work it out on their own, as they should now. Doing so would turn the spotlight on the naked desires of some within the government to shut down the threat of conversion.

    Giving the government cover for what it is doing now is a very risky proposition. Perhaps, as Onzlo suggests, this is all a tempest in a teapot. But the numbers and the history suggest this is not something that should be ignored and certainly not something that anyone, Christian, Muslim or otherwise, should condone.

    Reply
  24. kinzi February 28, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Informer, that was very, very interesting. I hadn’t connected the dots like that before on several points and I now have LOTS to ponder.

    BamBam…thanks for clarifying number/vs. percentage. Bear with me, tho (I know I am not good with numbers :D)…if the Christian population remained steady in numbers, and yet people were still having 3-5 children until the 90s when the ‘two child’ standard became norm for Christians, shouldn’t the whole population have increased more greatly than just remaining steady?

    Reply
  25. bambam February 28, 2008 at 8:19 am

    @informer
    i was quoting the Department of statistics in jordan and the CIA world fact book, the 4% i didn’t find a source for it so i won’t take it (might be legit so if u have the original source please post it). as for the http://www.srginc.org/ its an evangelical site… so no matter how bad the DoS is it will be way too biased to believe it without further questioning the methods and the source of that info. So their numbers increased there is no argument in that i think.

    thats why i stick with 6-7% so far.
    and thanks for the info that was insightful even tho am inclined to take it with a grain of salt. 😉 so you are saying the churches & the gov’t are working together. the only thing i can’t figure out is what is there to gain for the gov’t other than the support of the Big 3? or you are seeing something that i am not seeing.

    @kinzi
    really it has been the norm for a long time that christians have less children that muslims. so u can’t just start from 90’s till now. i am saying that based on my background and what was common i need to dig some statistics or reference for it to back it up factually. but the percentage decreased mainly due to that disparity …

    Reply
  26. kinzi February 28, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Bam, thanks for the links and the explanation.

    Reply
  27. kinzi February 28, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Bam, thanks for the links and the explanation.

    Reply
  28. shalabieh March 1, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Natasha,

    You and I both know that christians in Jordan are treated with respect and in fact a lot of people consider them a privliged minority, like the circassians. So I do not think this is a discriminatory issue with christians in general.

    By law missionary activities are illegal. I really dont think there is a back story to this. I have no heard of an out cry from any of my christian friends here about this or that there is discrimination against them along these lines. There have been churches here before there were mosques. There are christian schools run by pastors and nuns and all operate legal with out the mandate of proselytizing.

    I would also like to comment on your linking this with the issue of Iraqi refugees in Jordan. I work very closley on the matter and there religion does not play a major part. People if caught are deported because of their illegal residencey status. Furthermore, with the Iraqi community, Jordanian society had no issue with the christians, it was the Shi’a they were “afraid” of. This minority mostly migrated to Syria where they were met more hospitably by the local community there. So I really dont think the two are linked.

    I personally dont think there is a back story to this and with someone who has an ear to the ground here I have not heard any grumblings about this despite it being fully published on our front pages.

    Reply
  29. jareer March 1, 2008 at 9:04 am

    My father used to express his religious Christian views publicly and when he was asked if he was not afraid to be harmed, he said:
    ” No, I am not that good Christian to be given the honor to be harmed for the sake of Christ.” If your name is Omar, Khalid [ nothing wrong in that though], you visit the church on occasions, do not read your Bible, and care less about your spiritual life and that of others, why on earth should anyone persecute you?

    Reply
  30. tommy May 10, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Is proselytizing by Muslims illegal in Jordan? If so, are such laws enforced?

    Reply
  31. Right Truth September 8, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Jordan Deports Christians

    From Mental Mayhem, (hat tip Michael)

    Reply

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