AMMAN – Established in 2004, Our Lady of Peace Center accompanies and cares for more than 200 people with disabilities, without cost, every year. On the initiative of the Bishop Salim Sayegh, then Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan, the Center was founded on the conviction of interreligious dialogue in action: Muslims and Christians here live their Faith through concrete service to the disabled. It’s a unique model in a country where disability has reached 13% and remains mostly marginalized.
A cost-free service structure to fight prejudice and serve the poorest
More than 12 years ago, Bishop Salim Sayegh, then Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan, took hold of the issue of disability, which was widely ignored in Jordan. The situation is clear: the percentage of people with disabilities in the Hashemite Kingdom is 13%, and the case of these people remains mostly taboo. From the creation of a committee bringing together Christians and Muslims on the issue to the organization of public marches, the awareness of the situation of people with disabilities is one of the priorities of Bishop Salim Sayegh.
To provide a concrete response to all poor families, he imagined a structure that can provide cost-free care to people with disabilities, without distinction of religion or nationality. Our Lady of Peace Center opened its doors in 2004, the result of a collaboration between young Christians and Muslims. With its cost-free dimension, unique in the whole of Jordan, it offers a real alternative to families who cannot afford to place their child in public facilities. Financial coverage is provided by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and other associative structures.
The mark of religious dialogue in action
Since its inception, the Center has been recognized as an example of interreligious dialogue in the Middle East. It has become the biggest motivator for bringing Christians and Muslims together, to work together through a concrete joint action for people with disabilities. Its founder, Bishop Sayegh, is convinced that “the only true dialogue is that of charity, serving the poorest. Not one of the endless discussions but the one who acts”. Through its influence, the Center carries, loudly and clearly, the voices of disabilities people in Jordan, and more widely in the Middle East.
A cost-free service without any form of distinction
To meet all forms of disability, physical and mental, the Center offers a full range of rehabilitation services – physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy – as well as educational: 24 children with disabilities, aged 6 to 14 years are welcomed daily in specially adapted classes. Lastly, prosthetic and orthotic services have opened and are offered to all, and includes war victims (mainly Syrians and Iraqis). Based in Amman, the Center has branches in different parts of Jordan. The orthopedic and prosthetic service, known for its professionalism, regularly travels throughout Jordan (in refugee camps and rehabilitation centers) to provide prostheses/orthotics to patients in need.
“The people who work here are more than just employees. They have a mission, a great responsibility, to carry high the flag, the values of the Christian Faith and the Muslim Faith in action, through service to the disabled” –Father Shawki Baterian, Director of Our Lady of Peace Center.
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem