AMMONNEWS – By R.B. Sinclair – The Catholic Center for Studies and Media and Caritas Jordan organized a day of service and reflections for forty-one (41) Caritas International presidents and four hundred Syrian Refugees at Our Lady of Peace Center (OLPC). Caritas International is a charity confederation of Catholic relief, development and social service organizations with offices in over 200 countries. The Caritas International representatives are visiting Jordan on the occasion of Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to the Holy Land. The delegation is headed by Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga.
All through the day, the Center offered free medical and dental services to all refugees who sought help. Five doctors, two dentist, nurses, a pharmacist and many volunteers who helped direct the sick to the right examination rooms. Patients’ ages ranged from the newly born to eighty years old. On regular days, the Center serves individuals with mild to medium disabilities. “We serve people of all ages and faiths,” said Father Imad Twal, the director of OLPC. Father Rifat Bader, head of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media and Spokesperson of Pope’s visit to Jordan, welcomed the Caritas Internationalis delegation to Our Lady of Peace Center, and gave a pointed assessment of issues concerning Syria and the Syrian refugees.
Father Imad Twal talked about the mission of the Center and, later, conducted the daily six-o’clock Holly Mass.
Cardinal Maradiaga and the delegation met with Syrian families and listened to their concerns and hopes for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis. The session was “safe.” and focussed only on humanitarian issues, “politics” was discouraged.
Attendees described hardships in earning a living to support their families. They described the difficulties in acquiring visas to unite with their families living abroad. A widow, with a ten year old disabled daughter, sought to join her two sons living in Germany. She said German authorities informed her that one of two was allowed to travel to Germany. “They are asking me to either send my daughter, by her self, to Germany or to leave her alone in Jordan. That’s not a choice.” she added.
Outside the hall, people talked about their hardships. They fled from towns like Halab, Homs, Hasaka, Daraa , Maloula, Damascus and other areas. Insaf had to flee her home to escape the brutality of the armed gangs roaming her neighborhood. Sitting next to Insaf was her young daughter who did not utter a word. She just gazed into the horizon with sadness covering her innocent face. Other refugees talked about deaths and kidnappings of family members. Lawless fighters robbed and destroyed homes, shops and factories. Churches and mosques were desecrated. Another wondered : “why would America, Saudi Arabia and Qatar do this to us.” Before the war, Arabs from Jordan , Saudi and the Gulf would come to Syria and enjoy our hospitality and beautiful country, “why did they destroy our country,” he added. A Syrian Armenian woman interjected: “do not forget the role of the Turks Wherever we go, they keep on following us with their hate and persecution.”
In an exclusive interview with Father Rifat Bader emphasized that the Pope’s visit will strengthen the powers of peace through prayer and example. His Holiness words and deeds have inspired the world . His declaration:” a poor church for the poor” is a sort of a “white revolution” for reform. The Pope’s call for a day of prayer and fast for Syria dampened the voices calling for war. In Jordan, The Pope will pray for peace and Justice for all.
In response to a question about the “Arab Spring” and religious tolerance, Fr. Bader remarked that political instability and wars remain the main factor banishing Arab Christian away from their ancestral homeland. A Middle-East without its Christians will not be the same. As far as tolerance or coexistence, Fr. Bader opined “I do not like the words. It implies something different that one might not like or agree with, but can bear or tolerate. On the other hand, Citizenship means we are all equal under the law. ”
At his office, Fr. Rifat Bader and his staff are busy perfecting the smallest details connected with Pope’s visit. Jordanians are eager to welcome His Holiness in the Holy Land in the best way Jordanian hospitality offers.