By: Abigail Roberts | Contributor
In the 20th century, Christians made up over 10 percent of the Middle East, today that number has dropped to less than 5 percent. Factors such as emigration, growing religious intolerance and persecution play significant roles in this decline.
Christians currently make up 4% of the total population of Jordan, 95% of Jordanians are Muslim. (Photograph provided by Abigail Roberts)
The rise in emigration stems from economic situations, such as restricted access to jobs for Palestinians in the West Bank, conflict in the region, such as the Syrian war which has led to the displacement of about 450,000 Syrian Christians (Huffington Post), or fear of persecution such as the increased violence toward Egyptian Coptic Christians since 2011.
In the last three years alone, over five attacks have targeted Egyptian places of worship. From the December 2016 bombing of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul which killed 29 people, the Palm Sunday bombings at St. George’s Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria in April 2017 which killed 30 people, the Minya Coptic Christian bus attack in May 2017 which killed 28 and the Church of Saint Menas attack in December 2017 which killed ten citizens, in response thousands of Coptic Christians have emigrated from Egypt to the West (BBC).
However, God is still at work in the Middle East. Amidst these reports of shrinking Christian populations, many of those that remain carry the torch of faith brightly.
Hiba is a Jordanian Christian. Burdened from a young age with the break-up of her family, she found Christ as the one thing she could turn to.
“Daily, I want to be closer to the Lord,” said Hiba. “When I pray for change in my life, if it doesn’t happen I just have faith that He has something better for me.”
Hiba works north of Amman, the capital of Jordan. The city where she lives and works is known for its strong Muslim population and Christians are a very small minority.
“It is normal here for people to become Muslims, most often through marriage.”
Despite pressure from the community and her family Hiba remains steadfast.
Daily through her work at a women’s center, she has the opportunity to talk with and serve needy Syrian and Jordanian Muslim families.
“It has actually strengthened my faith,” Hiba said. “A friend of mine invited me to a small group here at this church and when I came I felt welcomed as part of the family. A week later I was offered a job here in the center, these last two years have given new meaning to my life.”
Followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch which lies in modern-day Turkey, Paul was called by God on the road to Damascus in Syria, and the ancient Patriarchs walked the ground of Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. These lands are soaked in Christian history and their story lives on to today.