Age: 60 years old
Profession: Retired, former pharmacist
City: Amman, Jordan
Denomination: Latin Catholic
"Giving young people opportunities to stay here"
How would you describe your relationship to the Church?
I am very involved. I have been organizing Bible study classes with a Jesuit priest for a group of women in my home since 1994. I am also the coordinator in the parish of Sweifeh. I also serve at the orphanage in Anjara. I go up there once or twice a week because I feel that the boys need a mother figure who is not a nun. My family funded the wing for the older boys and I fell in love with the children.
Why is it so important for you to be involved in this way?
When Jesus said, "I was hungry and you fed me, I was tired and you gave me rest," it also applies to "I was disorganized and you helped me clean up." My family has also funded a center dedicated to welcoming people with physical and mental disabilities in the Jordan Valley. They work with olive wood and do extraordinary things. The center has been entrusted to Anglicans and the beneficiaries are 100% Muslims. It is a beautiful way to evangelize in a country where it is not allowed. We show them concretely what it means to be Christian.
What do you think are the problems in the Church today?
The main problem is vocations. Families do not encourage them. People have misunderstood the changes brought about by Vatican II. My generation and our children's generation were not well catechized. Today, young people know nothing. Christianity is not an easy religion. Islam and Judaism are somewhat easier: there are rules, you just have to apply them: fasting, the 5 prayers a day... Christianity is love. We are not talking about feelings, but about action. The world is becoming more secular, more selfish. Everywhere, advertising says: "You are worth it", "You deserve it". What does that mean? That I deserve to wear Louis Vuitton? We become slaves. There is, among young people, a great quest, a desire for spirituality. We just need people who have the time and the ability to reach these young people.
What are the difficulties encountered by Christians in Jordan?
Our numbers. It keeps falling. An event like the feast of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Mount in Anjara is wonderful because it brings together 2000 Christians from all over Jordan and shows that we are still present. Muslims do not know Christians. When I take the Sisters of Charity, who also run an orphanage, to do their shopping in an entirely Muslim village, the inhabitants are curious. They ask who they are. They don't even know what a nun is. The Muslims, especially the younger ones, have not been exposed to Christianity. Many young Christians want to leave Jordan, but it is because of the economic problems: there is no work here.
Does this ignorance create fear or violence?
Sometimes. The news has reported some incidents. Jordan is an incredible country. Most of the people who help Father Youssef at the orphanage or at the shrine in Anjara are Muslim residents of the village. There are some Islamists who cause problems, but the majority of Jordanian Muslims are very respectful. This is thanks to the school system. At that time, there were not many schools and the most famous ones were those run by the Catholics of the Latin Patriarchate. Many of these families put their children in these Christian schools and it created a form of tolerance.
As a Jordanian, do you feel represented by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem?
The Patriarch should know our problems better, so that he can take them into consideration and respond to them. Jordan is a small country, but it is very important. It is the safest country in the Middle East. It is also the country that hosts all the refugees of the Arab world. The patriarch must focus on the peripheries, the marginalized rural areas. Why not invest in a school that would train for jobs in tourism, catering, hospitality? These are jobs that do not require long training periods, but which are recruiting! Or why not take inspiration from training courses such as "Jesuit worldwide learning", an online program for people who cannot access the school system because they have no papers or money. We need to give our young people opportunities to stay in the country.
Do you have a dream for your church?
To go to church and see it overflowing with people !
Interview by Cécile Lemoine