BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN – In the early evening of the May 24, 2014, Pope Francis visited on the site assumed to be the place of the baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist to meet with persons with disabilities and refugees. A visit to the poorest and a call to the international community.
Despite itself, Jordan is a country that welcomes the world. Surrounded by countries where peoples are torn apart, the Hashemite Kingdom is invaded by Syrians, Iraqis and Palestinians. The number of refugees is almost equivalent to that of native inhabitants. The government’s response is complicated as it is expensive and requires labor.
In Jordan, there are also people with disabilities. Only since 1993, a law allows them to have proper care, a job, and training opportunities. Many centers have been established by the Church and have become meeting points between Christians and Muslims. Widely supported by the royal family, these projects help people out of social misery which added to their already physical and mental hardship.
These are the people that the Pope likes so much to meet. He did not fail to do so and imparted his blessing, inviting them with courage to pray for peace and to offer their sufferings to God.
Francis stressed “generous” hospitality of the Kingdom.
Appeal to the international community
For several months the Jordanian government cries for help: it is financially overwhelmed by the daily influx of refugees. Pope Francis re-echoed the call imploring the international community to “not leave Jordan alone in the task of meeting the humanitarian emergency caused by the arrival of so great a number of refugees; but continue and increase its efforts to support and help.” Reiterating his appeal for Syria, the Pope also called for “that all abandon the contention of leaving the solution of problems to weapons and that there should be a return to the path of negotiation. The solution, in effect, can only come from dialog and moderation, compassion for those who suffer, in the search for a political solution, and a sense of responsibility toward the brothers.”
At the same time, digressing from his text, as he does so often, Pope Francis, by two questions, blasted the attitude of fueling conflict: “Who is behind the sale of arms?” And “who is responsible for selling arms to the warring parties, thus fueling the conflict?” He does not provide answers, but immediately called, in a serious tone, asking that “God converts violent.”
This landmark meeting, expressly desired by the Pope and attended by many children and refugees, ended the first day of pilgrimage in the Holy Land. A day marked, as might be expected, by the attention to refugees and the alarming situation in Syria and a region rife with conflicts that do not end. At the same time, the Mass celebrated by the Holy Father, and his visit to the place of Christ’s baptism serves to remind that the Pope came for Christians and the Church, reminding all of the commitments of baptism, which are lived mainly in the support and accompaniment of the poorest.
By: Pierre Loup de Raucourt