Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Evangelicals kicked out of Jordan

There is an important post over at the CT Liveblog discussing recent reports that evangelical Christians have been kicked out of Jordan or had their visa renewals denied.
The government alleges covert missionary activity. Compass Direct reports on this aspect, noting in a late February dispatch:
Jordan last week [week of Feb. 17] admitted to expelling foreigners for “illegal” missionary activities. Acting Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told the Jordanian parliament on Wednesday (February 20) that authorities had expelled missionaries operating “under the cover of doing charitable work,” suggesting that evangelistic activity is illegal in Jordan. If such evangelistic work were illegal, Jordan could be opening itself to accusations of violating of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the country published in its official Gazette in July 2006, giving it the force of law.

On January 29 Compass reported that Jordan had deported and denied residence permits to at least 27 foreign Christian individuals and families in 2007. On February 20 the acting foreign minister, Judeh, read a statement by the Council of the Church Leaders of Jordan condemning the Compass report. The Jordanian parliament on Thursday (February 21) then passed a resolution condemning the Compass article. While it was unclear what the government considered false in the report, the fact of deportations of Christians was further verified as authorities on February 10 expelled an Egyptian pastor with the Assemblies of God church in Madaba and, the previous week, an Egyptian pastor from a Baptist church in Zarqa.
The big question for President Bush and Jordan's King Abdullah is this: How can they expect evangelicals, American or otherwise, to support a Middle East peace strategy that puts a very low priority on securing religious freedom for all peoples of the Middle East?

If religious freedom is in jeopardy in a Western-friendly nation like Jordan, then Islamic leaders in Gaza, Syria, Iran, or Afghanistan have little or no motivation provide religious freedom to their populations.

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