By Hani Hazaimeh
Amman, January 10, 2011
Jordan's participation in the Christmas celebrations of the Eastern churches in Bethlehem last week set an example of coexistence, tolerance and solidarity with the Christians, Muslim and Christian leaders said on Saturday.
Following His Majesty King Abdullah's directives, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Thursday joined the Orthodox congregations celebrating the birth of Christ at Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity, conveying a message of solidarity from the King and the Jordanian people to Christians in the occupied lands and the region.
"The minister's participation in the event reasserts the attention and care the Hashemites attach to the holy Christian places, and is a message of love and solidarity from the King to Christians in Palestine and the rest of the world," Father Nabil Haddad, head of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Centre, told The Jordan Times yesterday.
The message Judeh’s visit carried is vital as it is addressed to Christians, who constitute an essential component of Arab society and its cultural and social fabric, Haddad added.
The timing is also important, especially since the visit reflects Jordan’s rejection and denouncement of all sorts of violence against the Christian places of worship, which have been escalating lately in Iraq and Egypt.
During the visit, Anba Abraha of the Egypt-based Coptic Orthodox Church expressed his appreciation for the role of King Abdullah and the Hashemite family in the protection of the holy places of Christianity, saying such gestures underline a true belief in interfaith dialogue on the part of the Jordanian leadership.
Professor of Comparative Religion at the Al al Bayt University Amer Hafi told The Jordan Times that the visit also pinpoints “Jordan’s special connection with the Palestinian cause as well as the relationship between the Muslims and Christians in Jordan and the Palestinians territories”.
“This reflects the tolerance and coexistence in Jordan particularly with Israeli calls to make their entity a Jewish country contradicting their claims of being the only democratic country in the region,” Hafi said, adding that the visit was important in the wake of the negative image and the religious tension that has started to be noticed recently in the region.
The two religious figures underlined that the Jordanian case works as a model to be implemented all over the world in terms of tolerance and mutual respect among followers of different religions.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Centre said: “The participation demonstrates the wisdom of the Jordanian diplomacy… which is based on respect for the others and religious tolerance.”