This article was written by Helena Scott, FRRME’s Project Officer in Jordan

The Olive Tree Centre

The opening of The Olive Tree Centre in Madaba will mark an exciting and significant turning point in FRRME’s relief & reconciliation efforts in Jordan. The new space, set to open this coming July (subject to registration), will provide a safe haven for persecuted Iraqi Christian refugees to receive trauma counselling and learn new skills which they can use to rebuild their shattered lives. Iraqi Christians in Jordan receive little support from the international community so we are elated to be able to offer a new space dedicated to their well-being and growth.

Olive trees have symbolic resonance with various religious groups, including Christians. When Noah released a dove after the flood, it came back holding an olive branch, indicating that a new land had been discovered. Similarly, Iraqi refugees in Jordan have found a new home, one where they can practice their religion free from persecution. Indeed, Jordan is one of the most tolerant countries in the Middle East as far as Christians are concerned, although there are strict rules against proselytizing.

The site of our new Olive Tree Centre in the ancient city of Madaba

The stigma around trauma

Many of the refugees we are helping struggle with the effects of trauma. Some witnessed atrocities in Iraq first-hand. Others had family members killed or kidnapped. But too often in the Middle East, victims do not feel safe speaking up about the abuse they have suffered. The stigma attached to voicing those experiences inflicts more pain, preventing those in need from getting help. The Olive Tree Centre will provide ongoing, specialized support to these survivors, providing them with a community, a safe space and strategies for moving forward.

The centre will also help build bridges between the refugees and the local community in Jordan. The majority of refugees we are helping are Christian; whereas most of the locals are Muslim, as are many of the Syrian refugees in nearby camps. The centre will provide a space in which all are groups are welcome and where reconciliation, communication, and understanding between different groups is encouraged.

Refugee children in Madaba hel design the new logo for The Olive Tree Centre

A place for all groups to come together

One of our goals for the centre is to host cultural activities and events where Jordanians, expats and tourists can experience first-hand the many wonderful aspects of Iraqi culture. Food is a great (and effective!) way to unite people from all walks of life, so cooking classes showcasing Iraqi cuisine is one potential activity. We’ll also aim to share other aspects of Iraqi culture including music, art, history, and storytelling, to name a few. Visitors will have the opportunity to get to know the refugees and hear their stories. 

Much of our work in Jordan thus far has been focused on emergency relief. We still distribute food packages and food coupons to the most needy, as well as provide medical and rental support whenever possible. The Olive Tree Centre will give refugees a physical hub where their other needs can be met. I look forward to seeing the impact the centre will have on the refugees and the wider community in Madaba. We are truly grateful to those who support us for making this possible!

Helena Scott, Project Officer in Jordan

Thanks to Souter Charitable Trust for their support

Souter Charitable Trust has awarded us a grant of £11,500 to help with our work in Jordan. We are very grateful to the trustees, in particular Brian and Betty Souter, for supporting the urgent needs of the refugees we are helping there. The money will be used for rental assistance and food packages for those most in need. If you would like to support our work, please see the giving options below. 

How you can help 

You can make a donation via our donate page (there are numerous options for how to donate). Alternatively, you can send us a cheque made out to ‘FRRME’ to: FRRME, PO Box 229, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 9DL, United Kingdom. American supporters wishing to make a donation can do so here.