Jordan Becomes Safe Haven for Christians Fleeing from ISIS

Father Rifat Badr who leads his church in Naour, Jordan, has praised the government for making 'Jordanians one family'. (Salh Malkawi for The National)
Father Rifat Badr who leads his church in Naour, Jordan, has praised the government for making ‘Jordanians one family’. (Salh Malkawi for The National)

Ammar Elias Ayoub was a taxi driver in Mosul before ISIL militants overran the city last June. He fled just days before the terror group took over, knowing that he might be killed because of his faith.

He now lives with his wife and five children in Jordan, happy to be in a country where Christians are still safe.

“Iraq will never be the same,” Mr Ayoub said, his arms clenched tightly across his chest while recounting the escape.

Amid unrest in the country, Christians have been relentlessly targeted by extremists in Iraq for a decade. They have also become targets in Syria after what began as a peaceful uprising in 2011 descended into civil war. Some Christians that fled these conflict zones ended up in Jordan, where people from various denominations of the religion live peacefully alongside the majority Muslim population.

Though Christians consider themselves safe in Jordan, there is an undercurrent of uncertainty as extremists wreak havoc in neighbouring countries.

With Jordan stepping up its role in the international coalition against ISIL, Jordanians, and especially minority groups, are aware that they could become a target for militants seeking to create instability.

“Jordan will be a target for Daesh, and they manoeuvre with many instruments,” said Atef Kawar, a Jordanian Christian parliamentarian, using an alternative name for ISIL. “All of us are targets.”

Still, despite the threat, ISIL is likely to have more difficulty finding sympathisers in Jordan than in Syria and Iraq.

“The rules and laws here don’t discriminate,” said Mr Kawar, describing the religious tolerance in Jordan. He said the main differences in Jordan were between Palestinians and Jordanians, rather than between religious groups, as people compete for jobs and government assistance.

Jordanian Christians also have strong ties to the royal family, are well represented in business, and have nine seats reserved for them in the 150 member House of Representatives.

Citing an example of why religious identity is not a primary concern for Jordanians, Mr Kawar said he did not focus on Christian rights while campaigning for office. Instead, he took up broader issues such as security and economic development, having been pushed into running by members of his clan.

That tribalism remains the bedrock of Jordanian society is another reason for Christian security, said Dr Raouf Sa’d Abujaber, a Jordanian Christian writer and researcher. The same tribes have lived in the area for thousands of years and Muslims and Christians are familiar with each other, he said.

“This area has always had this pluralism.”

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SOURCE: The National
Justin Vela

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