Accompanying the Church
Jordan’s Christian Shepherds Can technology preserve an ancient way of life? text by Dale Gavlak with photographs by Nader Daoud
oung and old crowd the wooden pews of a village church in the south of Jordan one recent Sunday evening. The congregation waits with eager anticipation to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with the Rev. Boulos Baqa’in, 56, an energetic priest closely connected to his flock. Some of the elders proudly don their traditional white robe-like garb with matching head covering, or keffiyeh, topped by a thin black cord — a symbol of their Bedouin roots. The youth wear jeans and sneakers. Despite differences in age and dress, the Christians of Ader’s St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church all agree on this: Their most pressing need is jobs for their youth. As local employment opportunities dry up, their university graduates look elsewhere for work, a factor endangering the future of the area’s rich Christian heritage.
Teriza Hijazine and Aziza Boulos call the southern Jordanian Christian village of Smakieh home.
“It was very difficult for my parents to see me go,” says 24-yearold Malik Hijazine, a member of the church who now works at a Christian school in the Jordanian capital, Amman. “We discussed the situation together and I helped them with things in the house, so when I traveled the situation lightened,” he says. Mr. Hijazine has returned to Ader for a week to help supervise a
summer youth camp held at the church. “It helps that I have a brother here for the moment, but my other brother and sister live and work in Aqaba, even farther south,” he says, with concern evident in his voice. “Our area is economically depressed. There is nothing for the youth to look forward to here in terms of developments,” the young man explains. “Finding good employment is difficult, so you are forced to go to the capital to get work — or to Jordan’s sole port city of Aqaba.” Others travel even farther away, often to the Arab Gulf countries, in search of jobs. Mr. Hijazine hails from a prominent Christian Bedouin tribe that originated from the Hijaz, a region found in present-day western Saudi Arabia. The Hijazine have existed as a Christian tribe with an unbroken lineage originating long before the advent of Islam in the seventh century.
The official publication of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)