Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July 20, 2008 Iraqi Church in Amman, Jordan

The Al Nami Iraqi church in Amman Jordan

Worshippers at the Al Nami Iraqi church in Amman, Jordan. The people attending the church insist upon not being photographed. I was given permission as long as I did not take any photos of peoples faces.

Ah yes I woke up very early to attend the Al Nami Church service which Mr. Osama told me started at 9am. After waiting til 9:30 on the church steps I called one of the members of the church. She told me that the church starts at 10:30am, so I had an hour to kill and wandered around the camp. I saw another community center in the heart of the camp and went in. There were about 200 kids, Iraqi, Palestinian, Jordanian all geared up for a 4 day camping trip. I met one of the mothers, Kholod a Palestinian refugee from Nablus. She was born in Jordan and has never seen Nablus, but like all other Palestinians I have met, refers to her origins as the birthplace of their exiled parents. “If Palestine was not occupied I would not want to go there, but while it’s occupied I will support the struggle.,” says Kholod of her relationship with Palestine.

Kholod is an incredibly bright, intelligent, independent, opinionated and modern thinking Palestinian woman. She is a strict Muslim, wears traditional Muslim clothing but does show her face. We began to talk of her refugee status. She divorced after 8 years of marriage; her ex-husband and his new wife are raising her 3 children. She is fine with this as it allows her to pursue her goal of getting a PHD in Biology. Kholod is now studying her masters and aske me to join her tomorrow on a field trip to gather herbs in Latifa, a desert town 3 hours south of Amman. All this familiarity and after only 20 minutes of conversation! It struck me then that this is why I love the Middle East, the chance meetings, and the open, warm heart of the people, the constant welcoming into their homes and lives. I said yes, and we made arrangements to meet at the Ragadan Bus station at 6 am tomorrow.

I said good-bye to the Kholod and the kids and went to the church. The door was unlocked; the members were arriving for the service. Suspicion greeted me with a handshake. What was I doing here, why did I want to take photos, who told me about the church, what would I do with the photos? An American woman who has lived in Amman for 11 years and is married to the senior pastor explained to me that I could not take any photos of peoples faces. It seems that other journalists have come to the church taken photos of the members, lied that they would no be published, and later the same photos were seen on the TV, this all caused much distress.

The majority of the church members are Assyrian and Chaldaen but the financing and actual running of the church is evangelical. The government allows the evangelicals to have churches but frown heavily upon missionary work. It is illegal for Muslims to convert, and if they are caught converting or preaching to Muslims, the church will most likely be closed and the “foreign leaders of the church” expelled from Jordan. After interviewing I found that they even fear for their lives. For more information on this please visit this link so I was very very careful not to take any photos showing anyones face, only the priest as he is an Iraqi Christian refugee.

The members were friendly and helpful and after going through my photos introduced me to Christian Iraqi refugees.

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