|NCC delegation meets refugees in Middle East|
Iraqi children show their artwork at the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center. UMNS photos by Linda Bales.
By Linda Bales*
May 25, 2007 | AMMAN, Jordan (UMNS)
Shadia, a 22-year-old Palestinian refugee, has lived her entire life in a refugee camp in Jordan.
She has been fortunate enough to find work and health care at a
clinic in the camp operated by the Middle East Council of Churches in
Amman. Her work in the clinic with women and children brings her a sense
of fulfillment and purpose, and she hopes to become a nurse.
Shadia was one of the refugees who met with a delegation of 16 women
from the U.S. National Council of Churches during a May 9-22 visit to
the Middle East.
Palestinian women on the West Bank face many daily challenges, delegates learned.
Not far from the clinic where Shadia works is a program called the
Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, directed by the Rev.
Nabil Haddad, a dynamic, jovial man dedicated to peace.
"What is our calling as Christians?" Haddad asked. "American
Christians take their religion for granted. Here it takes courage."
Christians are only 3.5 percent of Jordan's population.
Refugees from Iraq
The coexistence program serves women and children who are refugees
from Iraq because of the ongoing war. The program is supported in part
by a grant from the U.S. State Department. The more than 80 children
served by the program are regaining a level of stability in their lives
due to the love and care of the program's staff.
"When the children first arrived at the center, they were drawing
pictures of tanks and guns. Now, they draw flowers, houses, men and
women shaking hands in peace," Haddad told the delegation. "When I feel
depressed or anxious, I leave my office and come to this room to see the
children, and my sadness disappears.
"The Iraq war is destabilizing Jordan," he added. "There is an urgent call for forgiveness and repentance."
The Rev. Sue Turley lost a son in the
The U.S. women also met with Iraqi women at the Assyrian Orthodox
Church in Amman. The Rev. Sue Turley, a delegate from the Swedenborgian
Church, opened the meeting by noting that she was a "Gold Star Mom" - a
mother who had lost a son in the Iraq war.
Her son, Keith, she said, was "born into privilege and felt a need to
serve his country. Keith was idealistic, perhaps not wise. He came to
Iraq to help the women and children, began to learn the language and
treated the Iraqi people with dignity and gentleness."
Speaking directly to the Iraqi women, she added, "I join you in your
loss and send our apologies. We want to build a world of peace with
justice together with you."
After the refugee women extended their sympathies, they began sharing
their own experiences as refugees in a foreign land. Many of the women
can't afford to pay for health care since their permits have expired.
Several reported serious health conditions that weren't being treated.
One couple reported that a relative was kidnapped for ransom in Iraq.
The couple felt threatened and afraid for their lives, so they fled
their homeland to Jordan.
Palestinian women also have experiences of homelessness, a situation
clearly articulated to the delegation by Palestinian Christian women
living in the West Bank. One YWCA representative spoke about facing
discrimination as a woman and a Christian. She believes it is critical
for women to not only care for and nurture their families, but also work
for peace and justice.
The West Bank Barrier, a wall constructed by Israel
around the perimeter of the West Bank, hampers Palestinians' access to
The delegation heard from Palestinian women whose lives are
complicated and even threatened because of delays reaching medical
services; by the West Bank Barrier, a visible wall constructed by Israel
around the perimeter of the West Bank; and by hundreds of roadblocks
*Bales is an executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society in Washington.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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