Jordan Admits Deporting Foreign Christians For Preaching And Mission Work

Friday, February 22, 2008

By BosNewsLife Correspondents Stefan J. Bos and Eric Leijenaar

AMMAN, JORDAN (BosNewsLife) -- Christian missionaries in Jordan faced more uncertainty Thursday, February 21, as the Jordanian government acknowledged for the first time that it has begun expelling foreign Christians for preaching and carrying out missionary activities.

Jordan confirmed reports, initially carried last year by BosNewsLife News Agency, that Christian missionaries and preachers, including several Egyptians and Iraqis, have been expelled.

Minister of State for Information and Communication Affairs Nasser Judeh said preachers came to Jordan under the "pretext of charitable a and voluntary activities, but they have violated the law by undertaking preaching activities and were expelled." So far a spokesman mainly cited technical reasons for deportations, but Judeh said spreading Christianity would not be tolerated in this mainly Muslim nation.

He made clear that under Jordanian law, the government must sanction preaching and any religious activity, whether Christian or Muslim. Judah did not mention how many people were expelled, but Christian sources estimate that Jordanian authorities deported and refused residence permits to at least 27 expatriate Christians from the United States, South Korean, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq for belonging to evangelical groups.


In a statement expected to raise eyebrows among evangelical Christians, Jordan's Council of Churches - the highest Christian body in Jordan - reportedly denounced "missionary groups that presented themselves as charitable organizations." It also refuted allegations that the government was cracking down on foreign Christians living in the kingdom.

"It is puzzling that certain small groups with a few hundred members and which are foreign to Christians in Jordan and to the history of Muslim-Christian relations, permit themselves to speak in the name of Christians and act as protectors of Christianity as if it were in danger,"
the council said.

However there have been tensions with traditional churches and growing evangelical groups and congregations, who view spreading the Gospel as part of their Biblical mandate, BosNewsLife established. Jordan already closed down an evangelical church in the port city of Aqaba, mission group Arab World Ministries (AWM) told BosNewsLife and its Netherlands-based partner Website, earlier this month.


Last year another evangelical church was closed by officials in the Jordan Valley, a low-lying strip which cleaves down the western border of the country, AWM said, adding that individual Christians had also been told to stop missionary training program. The group suggested there was a link between the closures of churches and complaints made by Coptic denominations in Jordan, who allegedly view evangelical churches as a threat.

Tensions have reportedly increased amid a flood of Iraqis fleeing their country. An estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees fled to in Jordan, including thousands of Christians. Christians in Jordan, represent just about 5 per cent of the country's 5.5-million people, who are mainly Muslim. Although Christians can elect parliamentary deputies and are represented by one or two ministers in the cabinet, there is concern among tights group that the country has become
less tolerant towards Christianity.

Jordanian officials have denied these allegations, and tourist officials have told BosNewsLife they encourage foreign Christians to come to Jordan to visit Biblical sites.

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