Father Immanuel

Father Immanuel of the Syrian Orthodox Church is one of our partners in Jordan. He is a highly respected priest who ministers to the refugee community of Iraqi Christians who have fled their homeland in the wake of ISIS. Below he discusses some of the challenges Iraqi Christians face when they get to Amman:

FRRME: “Where are Iraqi Christians in Jordan wanting to go?”

Father Immanuel: “Australia. America is not taking people. I have visited the Australian embassy here in Amman and spoken with the Ambassador. Today, the best country for the Christians to go to is Australia because they will take the Christians.”

FRRME: “Have any other countries said they will take Iraqi Christians?”

Father Immanuel: “A representative came from the American embassy. He was interested in taking 100 families but they did not end up taking anyone. They only took information. A representative came from Serbia. He wanted some families to go to Serbia.”

FRRME: “Are there people who cannot get visas to go to these places?”

Father Immanuel: “Young people and single people. Embassies do not accept single people. The problem is that everybody wants to go to Australia. As their priest, I must tell them that not everybody will be able to go there. I try to convince people to go to other countries like Serbia. I spoke with the French Ambassador recently and asked him but France will not take Iraqi Christians. Also Canada. Some refugees have gone to Canada but only a few. Only a few have gone to America but that has stopped.”

FRRME: “Are the Iraqi Christians welcome in Jordan?”

Father Immanuel: “There are many Christians from Mosul here in Amman but it is not always good for them. King Abdullah wrote in the newspaper recently that there are many problems in Jordan because of the refugees. The country is small and there are so many refugees here now, not just Iraqis. There are people from Egypt, Palestine, Libya, and even India. Jordan has so many people now.”

FRRME: “Will Jordan ever force refugees to go back?

Father Immanuel: “I hope that will not happen. We will work to make sure it does not happen.”

FRRME: “If they get rid of ISIS in Iraq, do you think the Christians will go back?”

Father Immanuel: “No. The war has destroyed their homes. Mosul has been destroyed. Also, the Christians are concerned about living with their former neighbours, whom have persecuted them. Maybe some families will go back to sell their houses and then leave again, if that is possible. It will be difficult to go back again and live there. They fear to go back.”

FRRME: “They cannot go back but they cannot go forward.”

Father Immanuel: “Exactly. They wait here in Jordan for the acceptance of any Western embassy. Maybe three years, five years, six years, maybe longer.”

FRRME: “Syria is always in the news in the West. What we see is Syrian refugees and we forget about the Iraqi refugees.”

Father Immanuel: “That is right. The Syrians have the best situation. Three years ago I opened a door for the Syrian people in Ashrafieh. And all of those people got visas for other countries. Visas for work, for travel. All of them are gone. However, the Iraqis are stuck.”

FRRME: “How many Iraqi Christians are in Jordan now?”

Father Immanuel: “Around 10,000. Most are registered with the United nations. Those stuck in Iraq are in the camps in Erbil. It is terrible for them. I pray for them.”

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