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.

Saddened by Jordan’s latest Christian controversy

I have been extremely disturbed by the latest controversy rocking Jordan over the expulsion of what have been dubbed "Foreign Christians" and the reactions of some Jordanian churches (in Arabic). For those that have not been following the controversy, here is a brief synopsis.

  1. Compass Direct runs an article detailing the Jordanian government’s expulsion of "Foreign Christians" from Jordan.
  2. Shortly thereafter a group of Jordanian churches, which did not include all Christian denominations in Jordan, agree with the government decision and publish a statement in Al Rai newspaper (in Arabic).
  3. Jordan confirms the expulsion and makes reference to the supportive statement of the Jordanian churches.

The issue is probably too controversial for me to comment on fully and might offend some, so I will try to tread carefully. This is my humble opinion. I’m not trying to take sides. I’m merely observing and commenting,  nothing more, nothing less; so bear with me. My two main points:

Religion should be a free choice. If individuals want to tell others about their religion, they should have the right to do so. This is what happens in democratic societies. In the US, for example, preaching about Islam is not a crime. Christians convert to Islam on a regular basis, no sweat. This is not the case in Jordan, since it is not yet a democracy. I believe it is a basic human right for any individual to have the right to choose whatever spiritual path they want. Hence, I disagree with the Jordanian government’s decision to expel anyone based on religious activities. But then again, this is the case in Jordan and it may never change. People may just be satisfied with the status quo. Personally, I think the status quo contradicts any moves Jordan makes towards true democracy, but that’s just me.

I think the statement by the Jordanian churches (Arabic) inflamed the controversy and it was unnecessary. It created tension between different Christian denominations in Jordan. It was unmerited and, I hate to say it, but it bordered on "bad taste."  From what I read and heard, many of those deported were actually Arab ministers belonging to various evangelical churches in Jordan. The churches’ statement basically created a divide between the Eastern Christian denominations and evangelicals whom the statement labeled "illegitimate."

A number of those that were deported worked for the Jordan Evangelical Theological seminary. In response, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, Dr. Imad Shehadeh said:

The variety in denominations should not express discord and enmity, but rather, like the tree with many branches, it should express beauty as well as unity in diversity. Evangelicals are not perfect. Many individual evangelicals, like anyone else, have undoubtedly made mistakes. But let us all learn, love and cooperate together for the glory of God and the upholding of our beloved country of Jordan.

I remain disturbed by what occurred. I wish it had not happened. Frankly, it puts Jordan in a bad light internationally and has created unneeded tension amongst Christians in Jordan. Finally, if anyone wishes to comment, please keep the discussion decent. Thank you.

Here are some reactions from the Jordanian blogosphere:

My friend Dan and Obama

My friend Dan has been working to convert me into joining the Obama cult for the past month or so. Every morning he comes to the office and tells me about Obama. I keep telling Dan I’m not sure my citizenship papers will be completed in time for the elections, "so you might be preaching to the wrong crowd here." "But you can convince your husband," he tells me.

I tell him: "I like Obama, but Hillary is the one with the experience. She is the one who will be able to deal with the sharks."

He says "You are from Jordan, you like monarchies and you feel secure with having the same family in politics." "Maybe," I respond.

"But Obama strikes me as arrogant and overconfident for a junior senator,"  I say. "And Hillary is not?" he retorts.

Dan never stops. He sends me links and articles to show me how good and genuine Obama is. I have to admit, though, Obama is looking good these days. Even as a self-described Clinton supporter, the Obama charm is reaching me. I guess it is the message of hope that touches me most. We all need hope. Obama might sound naive and might be describing a fairytale political existence, but hearing him is inspiring although I do not quite buy it. I guess I’m too jaded to believe in radical changes, especially when it comes to politics.

Today is Super Tuesday and you can feel the excitement in the air, at least here in DC. I would be happy with either one of them winning, but then again my opinion doesn’t mean much. However, my husband is still undecided. Maybe Dan needs to go chat with him.

Snapshot: Deer in my backyard

One of the things that I enjoy a great deal about living in the suburbs, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, is the easy access to nature and wildlife. Last week, while I was sipping my morning coffee and flipping through the weekend edition of the Washington Post, I glanced at our backyard and low and behold there were deer, four of them, right outside my dining room.

They just wandered around, nibbled on some of our trees, and chilled for a while until they decided it was time to move on. Such beautiful animals, I tell you! This is a scene that is really worth my daily commute back and forth to work. Long live the suburbs!

Two deer Taking a load off

Snapshot: Deer in my backyard

One of the things that I enjoy a great deal about living in the suburbs, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, is the easy access to nature and wildlife. Last week, while I was sipping my morning coffee and flipping through the weekend edition of the Washington Post, I glanced at our backyard and low and behold there were deer, four of them, right outside my dining room.

They just wandered around, nibbled on some of our trees, and chilled for a while until they decided it was time to move on. Such beautiful animals, I tell you! This is a scene that is really worth my daily commute back and forth to work. Long live the suburbs!

Two deer Taking a load off