Report of Site Visit to The Holy Land (Jordan) 8 – 15 September 2019
- Professor Bart McGettrick (President)
- Dr Detlef Brummer (Germany)
- Mrs Cynthia Monahan (USA)
- Mr Tom McKiernan, (Consultant).
The week spent exclusively in Jordan allowed a fairly focused visit to that part of The Holy Land The general impression of the position with Christians in Jordan was of an energetic and active participation at parish level in an environment of change and anxiety. The experiences of visiting major parish events were extremely interesting, raising matters of the identity of the Christians in Jordan.
There was also anxiety of Christians who are suffering in various ways – including the large scale of refugee influx to Jordan from Syria and Iraq created by religious persecution in some areas.
The planning of the week was based on an attempt to hear the needs of those working with Christians. .
SUMMARY OF KEY ISSUES
The key issues arising from the site visit of the Holy Land Commission included:
- The social and political context of The Holy Land is complex and uncertain. Among the countries of the Middle East Jordan is reasonably stable politically, though its current economic health is weak. Within this the Christian population is clearly struggling economically and socially.
- The situation in Jordan is markedly different from Palestine and the West Bank.It is a country struggling with the high proportion of refugees and migrants whose country of birth is not Jordan. There is clear social instability, as seen in the mobility of population, the price of land and property, etc.
- There are critical questions to be raised about the “normalisation” of the conditions of refugees – and in particular the families and children of refugees. Some 25% of Syrian refugees of school age in Jordan have no access to education.This cannot be considered to be “normal”.
- The teaching staff salaries in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (LPJ) schools in Jordan is a major source of concern.This is in a context in which in Government Schools there are strikes of teachers who are seeking a very significant pay settlement. This subsequent resolution of this dispute will have enormous repercussions on the staffing and funding of the LPJ schools.
- Buildings and Estates
- The Holy Land Commission was fully satisfied with those buildings which the Order had commissioned and are in process of completion.The Churches were of good quality and being well used.
- The infrastructure of buildings – schools and parishes – is witness to the commitment to education, humanitarian aid and pastoral care. These will need to be maintained in the future, and this is a growing priority for the LPJ.
- There is a need to equip schools with appropriate furniture and This is poorly developed in many of the LPJ schools and this is a disincentive to parents who are seeking a suitable education for their children.
- Christian Institutions
- The parishes which were visited were vibrant and active.The engagement of youth was a particularly pleasing aspect of the visits.
- The Parish Priests were positive about the developments in the LPJ. This was very encouraging.
- The School Principals were also generally positive about the support being given by the LPJ, and were conscious of the need for greater financial stewardship of the LPJ schools.There were significant matters of current and future salaries that need some urgent attention. This is part of national unrest since government schools are on strike seeking a 50% salary increase.
- There are critical questions to be raised about the “normalisation” of the conditions of refugees – and in particular the children of refugees. This is of crisis proportions in Jordan, and there are “refugees in waiting” in Syria and Iraq.
Projects for 2020
There was discussion about the Projects for the Holy Land. This had proved a successful way of engaging with a number of Lieutenancies in 2018 and 2019. It was likely that the Projects for 2020 would consist of a balance of smaller and larger projects. . For example the list might include several costing, say $100K, and 34 that were much smaller in value. The details of these projects would be determined by the Patriarchate and would be approved by the Governor General once the overall budget for the year was known. It is expected that information will be available shortly after the meeting of the Grand Magisterium on 22/23 October 2019.