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"Eid Mubarak"

During the first of my three years in Jordan, and every year after, I was overwhelmed by the love and hospitality shown to me by my Muslim neighbors during traditional Christian holidays. Each year at Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter, my friends and colleagues wished me “eid mubarak” or “blessed feast/festival.” Normally, I heard this phrase around Eid Al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, two Islamic holidays. But, it was also used, to my surprise and delight, to wish me a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter. While living there, I was often welcomed into my co-workers homes for a meal or tea and coffee and cookies (yes, all three) during Eid al-Adha or Eid al-Fitr. Similarly, during Christian holidays, I made Christmas decorations and painted eggs with friends.

I never felt unsafe in Jordan

My experiences of welcome and hospitality are a vision of hope for a country that is number thirty-one on Open Doors International’s World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Despite my mostly positive experience, I heard of difficulties (and in some cases, violence) that both local and foreign Christians face in Jordan - sometimes from family and tribal alliances, sometimes from the government, and sometimes from fear of extremist retaliation. I never felt unsafe in Jordan because the government does a good job of trying to protect all of its citizens and residents. For example, at Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter services, police forces are assigned to each church to protect against attacks. However, the whole time I was there, I also knew that I was not completely free.

What will I do with this freedom?

Since being back in the States, I have a new appreciation of freedom of speech and of religion. In the States, I can speak about the movement of the Church without fear. The question is, what will I do with this freedom? Certainly, as urged to by those more familiar with persecution than I am, I will pray. I personally witnessed the power of prayer many times over while living in Jordan.

I also want to use my freedom to help create that vision of hope I experienced around the holidays in Jordan. Both in the States and abroad, I envision places of flourishing as described in Micah 4:1-5, where people are not afraid. This work has already been started by organizations like the Institute for Global Engagement, the Religious Freedom and Business Coalition, and the Preemptive Love Coalition, which use diplomacy, business, research, and development work to pursue peace and reconciliation. In their Love Anyway podcast, the Preemptive Love Coalition shares the story of a man who brought water to ISIS fighters, including the leader that ordered the murder of his friend. By meeting the needs of his enemy, this man offered a peaceful, non-extreme version of Islam.

The United States can help prevent discontentment from flaring into extremism.

Extremism, a source of persecution in Jordan, can also be countered by advocating for more inclusive and welcoming foreign and domestic policies. Currently, Jordan hosts 670,000 Syrian refugees, the second highest share of refugees per capita in the world, placing a strain on an already resource-poor country. By offering more aid and resettling more refugees, the United States can help prevent discontentment from flaring into extremism. I want to use my freedom to both advocate for these policies and to promote a place of inclusion that is free from fear in my home communities. It can be easy to forget that Christians make up the cultural majority in the United States and that religious minorities might not always feel welcome or safe here. The best way to pursue religious freedom abroad is to demonstrate it at home. What are actions I can take and policies I can advocate for that will produce a flourishing community where everyone can “sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)?

For more articles in this series on 'What I've learned about religious persecution" follow this link!

Photo of fig tree provided by the author. 

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