After just two weeks in Amman, I’m already starting to feel at home here. This experience stands in stark contrast to the last city I lived in, Washington, D.C., which I came to love but where it took time to feel fully settled in. That memory fades into the distance now as I’m greeted with the warm hospitality ingrained and embedded deep into Arab culture. As a foreigner, I’ve been welcomed into the homes and places of worship of strangers immediately.
I was introduced to Father Emmanuel, a Syrian Orthodox Christian pastor, who at our first meeting gave me a welcome gift along with qahwah (coffee) and sweets. He showed me pictures of a toddler who was maimed and burned by “DAESH” (as he refers to ISIS) and goes into details about how the Church serves as a refuge for so many people in need – one of countless stories like this I’ve encountered since moving here.
It’s a humbling, shocking, and eye-opening experience to observe so many children, women, and men transplanted from their homes and lives, as they knew them. These families are uprooted yet positive, filled with hope and yearning for a better future, and a chance to rebuild the lives that were shattered by persecution and war. For many, their hope is a result of their faith and convictions. FRRME/FRRME America’s involvement contributes to sustaining that hope, and I’m happy to witness this.
These families remind me that safety, security, and freedom of beliefs are luxuries that so many aren’t afforded. To many religious minorities throughout the Middle East, practicing religion is an active choice, one that can come with dire consequences, yet many still make the choice to express their faith and do not give up on their beliefs despite the risks and hardships they often experience as a result.
I recently met with one of several families who were directly threatened by ISIS. They fled Iraq in an attempt to stop the kidnapping of their 13-year-old daughter because of their Christianity. This meant leaving behind their livelihoods and starting afresh in an unknown place where they don’t have the right to make a living or get an education. Their daughter, now 16, once had dreams of becoming a doctor – but has yet to attend high school. To see this family’s ability to adapt and face the abrupt upheaval in their circumstances is truly inspiring.
Jordan – whose fabric and history is at once rich, diverse, and complex – needs the means and support to absorb the vast multitude of refugees being transplanted here. While D.C. is a diverse international hub, Amman and its surrounding towns serve as a melting pot of displaced people from around the Middle East. Irrespective of faith or nationality, the need for relief, assistance and hope is clear.
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