The most recent horrific attack on Christians in Iraq struck a personal cord with me. Of all the attacks happening daily in Iraq, this one somehow hit home. It might have been the way the worshippers were ambushed during Sunday mass and then slaughtered that’s causing me to lose sleep. It is horrifying to realize that the only reason these Iraqis were butchered was because they belonged to the wrong religion. Being the over-dramatic type, I couldn’t stop thinking about my family in Jordan and wondering what if?
What if they were worshiping at a church in Amman and something similar happens. Al-Qaeda members seem to manage to cross borders so easily these days that a similar attack in Jordan might not be that remote. I know I’m probably going over the top since these things don’t normally happen in Jordan even after the Al-Qaeda-inspired attacks of 2005. But I did think about it, and for a brief moment I panicked.
This horrific massacre of Iraqi Christians has stirred debate of a potential exodus of Christians from the Middle East, with media outlets like Foreign Policy (The End of Christianity in the Middle East) and Voice of America (Al-Qaida Threatens Christians in Egypt, Elsewhere in Middle East) both drawing a very gloomy picture of Christians in the region.
The London-based Arabic publication Elaph also discussed the issue and highlighted this distinct fact: Jordan has become a safe haven for Christians in the region, including Iraqi and Palestinian Christians that are feeling extremism in their home countries.
The article also quoted a piece in the Independent by Robert Fisk in which he referred to Jordan as “the only flame of hope in the region” when it comes to the situation of Arab Christians.
Yes, Jordanian Christians are in a superb position compared with the rest of the region. No one denies this. Coexistence is the name of the game, with many Jordanian Christians occupying senior positions in the government and parliament. Christians and Muslims live in the same neighborhoods and in some cases interact as members of the same family.
However, I don’t think Jordan is completely off the hook. The fact that a Jordanian Christian can’t become a prime minster is a problem that should be resolved sooner than later. The former head of the Jordanian parliament, Abdul Hadi Majali, was actually asked about it in an interview with an Arab Satellite channel. His response was the “minority” can’t rule the majority.
Another fact still affecting Jordanian Christians is the issue of inheritance, where Sharia law still applies to them. The male sibling takes double the share of his sisters and male relatives take a share of the daughters’ inheritance in the absence of a male sibling.
Since I have a big mouth, I have discussed these ticklish issues with many of my friends and coworkers when I lived in Amman. The answer I got most of the time was that Jordan is a Muslim country and we can’t change the rules for a “minority.” Throwing the “minority” label at me never made me feel special, to the contrary, it made me feel like a pariah. I used to respond with: “Come on, you can’t deprive my unborn child from ever dreaming that one day he (yes, a he, she, is another story) will become prime minister. Even minorities should have equal rights.”
But that was back then, when I was young, naïve and passionate. It was back when I thought writing, talking, and arguing would take me somewhere.
I’m now a thirty-something, jaded Christian Arab who has joined the ranks of those who are in the “exodus.” I might not have lots of ground to stand on simply because I packed my bags and left. Ah well, I’m just blowing off some steam on a breezy Friday morning in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Blowing off steam is probably the most I can do at this point since I’m only a “minority”.