Following a rash of deportations and denied residency permits, evangelicals in Jordan report that freedom to practice their faith is increasingly entangled with national security issues.
Jordan, long hailed as a model of tolerance in the region, hosted its third international conference on interfaith coexistence in Amman in January. One week later, Compass Direct News reported that the government had kicked out 27 foreign evangelical missionaries, pastors, seminary students, and teachers in 2007.
The evicted Christians came from the U.S., Europe, South Korea, Egypt, Sudan, and Iraq. Many said intelligence officers questioned them about evangelizing Muslims. Although no Jordanian law explicitly prohibits evangelicals from practicing their faith, Islam (the country's official religion) prohibits apostasy.
The report was quickly followed by statements from the Jordanian government and the Council of Church Leaders in Jordan denouncing foreign missionaries' activities. The church leaders accused evangelicals, a small community of 5,000 to 10,000, of threatening the longstanding peace between Christians and Muslims.
Jordan said through its U.S. embassy that the deportations came in response to complaints from Catholic and Orthodox bishops about evangelicals' proselytizing. Much of evangelicals' growth has come from the conversion of nominal Catholic and Orthodox believers.
However, one evangelical leader in Jordan said multiple factors, including new pastors with better training, increased access to satellite TV and the Internet, and prayer are combining to draw Jordanians to the Christian faith.
"I wish what the government accuses us of doing was true, that we are doing evangelism, giving Bibles away, going to the streets," he said. ...