The birth of Peace, Love, and Equality

[23-12-2020 02:17 PM]

By Reverend Habes Neemat

President of Jordan Evangelical Council

Two thousand years ago, in a humble Bethlehem manger, the prince of peace was born. This miraculous virgin birth in a Palestinian cave took place “when there was no room for them at the inn.” Today although we remember the birth of Jesus Christ and the call of the angels “peace on earth and goodwill to men,” genuine peace that is built on justice and equality is absent from the world.

The Christmas season is a heavenly call for all beings to pay attention to their fellow humans. It is also a call to those in positions of responsibility to govern with justice, mercy, and parity. While the world is moving forward, people continue to suffer from discrimination, and the absence of equality despite the developments in knowledge, education, and technological advances.

We ask with all honesty and frankness: do all apply the principle of justice and peace? Are the Jordanian legislative or judiciary sectors abiding by the constitution on the basis of total equality of all citizens without discrimination? Unfortunately, we the national evangelical churches feel that there are forces working against this principle. Some do it consciously, others unconsciously, but the result in both cases is the same.

Jordan’s parliament issued law #28 for Christian Denomination in 2014. The law included an annex that listed churches for which that law is supposed to regular the lives of Christian citizens. But the list ignored a number of churches which has been active since the creation of the emirate and which were recognized since the middle of the last century. And despite unceasing and continuous efforts since 2014 to correct this mistake, different governmental officials have failed to respond clearly. They dodged these efforts and have hesitated in responding to them even though our churches are known to abide by the law and are active with their parishes and carry out humanitarian work for all.

We were further surprised lately with a judicial decision that annulled the marriage that was carried at one of our churches on the basis of this unjust law. We believe in the independence of the judiciary and we consider that this decision has exposed the legislative error that affects thousands of citizens. The marriage ceremony that was the subject of this case was carried out in one of our churches which is a member of the Jordan Evangelical Council. Its marriage certificates have been recognized since the establishment of the Kingdom. Does this mean that the marriage of thousands of our Jordanian families is null and void?

The Jordan Evangelical Council was established in 2006 and includes the Jordanian Baptist Church, the Jordanian Assemblies of God church, the Free Evangelical Church, the Nazarene Evangelical Church, and the Christian Alliance Church. All these churches are duly registered and their registration published in the official gazette. In addition to their spiritual work, they are active in various humanitarian causes including education, health, refugees, orphans, prison services, and working with the elderly.

For nearly a hundred years, our churches have been producing birth, baptismal, and marriage certificates. These documents have been officially accepted and recorded in the governmental personal status records. In addition, our churches are regularly given tax waivers and are treated with respect by all civil and security departments.

Nearly ten thousand Jordanian citizens worship freely in 57 of our church buildings spread throughout the kingdom. The 2014 law has created unjust discrimination in our churches and as a result, we have raised this issue in all our official meetings and in the media. We have stated that it is not logical or just that a large segment of Jordanian society and religious institutions remain outside the latest law. We continue to embrace article six of the Jordanian Constitution which guarantees equality to all Jordanians without discrimination based on religion.

Our most recent meeting in the Husseiniya Palace nearly a year ago with Prince Ghazi and Dr. Bisher Khasawneh, who at the time headed the office of His Majesty the King with the aim of overcoming this obstacle. The prince advised us to unite in one denomination with a legal framework. Based on that, and after long and serious internal discussion- including with a well-known legal office- a new bylaw was agreed to by all our churches and we await an official response to it.

Despite all of this, we would like to reiterate our loyalty as citizens and churches to His Majesty King Abdullah II. We support the Hashemite custodianship of the holy places in Jerusalem and all our leadership’s efforts for a just peace in our country and our beloved east.

On the occasion of the birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mary, we would like to repeat the importance of peace, love, and equality. We wish all a Merry Christmas and a new year full of peace and tranquility.

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