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2020 WORLD WATCH LIST #38

JORDAN

Country rank

38

Persecution score

64.38

Last year’s rank

33

Region

Middle East  North Africa

Persecution Type

Clan oppression (Strong), Islamic oppression (Strong)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

10,209,000

Christians

180,000 (OD estimate%)  According to OD-estimate

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy

Leader

King Abdullah II

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Jordan through:

• Equipping and training
• Emergency aid relief
• Rehabilitation

ABOUT JORDAN

What does persecution look like in Jordan?

Compared to Christians living in other Middle Eastern countries, most Christians in Jordan live a safe and stable life, and enjoy a relatively high level of religious freedom. King Abdullah II and his government appear to tolerate and, to a certain degree, support recognized churches. Most believers in Jordan belong to Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches.  

However, Christians still experience discrimination in employment and restrictions against public preaching. Unrecognized churches can face harassment by public authorities, particularly those that actively evangelize. Although Jordan likes to present itself as a beacon of tolerance and interfaith dialogue, radicalized Sunni Muslims and returning jihadists from Syria and Iraq continue to pose a threat to the Christian community. Additionally, open testimony of faith by a Christian who converted from Islam can lead to beatings, arrest and even death. Christians who are active in evangelism and/or helping converts from Islam can face threats and oppression in daily life. Pressure remains very high for Christians who belong to these groups. 

Jordan has a disproportionately high number of Salafi Muslims who are potentially a danger to Christians and other religious minorities living in the country. The government continues to control mosque sermons and requires preachers to abstain from talking about politics to avoid social and political unrest in an attempt to rein in Islamic extremism. 

How women experience persecution

Of all the categories of Christian community in Jordan, female converts from Islam are the most vulnerable to persecution for their faith. However, other Christian females also face inequality, especially if their husbands convert to Islam.

For female converts, pressure comes most often from family. When a Christian convert still lives with her Muslim family, she risks house arrest, and even sexual harassment or rape if her faith is revealed. Although arranged marriages are not uncommon in Jordan, female converts are under additional threat of being married off involuntarily in an effort to retain family. This can extend to honor killings, which are a risk for converts in rural areas. 

Female converts from Islam cannot officially marry male Christians. Even if they marry abroad, the state does not recognize such marriages.

When married to non-Christian husbands, female converts risk abuse and death threats, which cause some to flee. They are also faced with travel restrictions. Travel bans can be imposed by the authorities but also by family members. If a convert violates the travel ban, a court case can be initiated for “traveling without permission.” Female converts are also under the threat of forced divorce. The attitude of the spouse’s family is crucial in this issue. 

In cases decided by a Shariah court, judges can annul converts’ marriages, transfer child custody to a non-parent Muslim family member or declare the children wards of the state and convey an individual’s property rights to Muslim family members. If a Muslim husband and non-Muslim wife are divorced, the wife automatically loses custody of the children when they reach seven years of age, unlike Muslim women (as reported by Al-Jazeera in December 2015). 

How men experience persecution

Under Shariah law, marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not allowed. For the marriage to be legal, the man must convert to Islam. This makes legal marriage impossible between a Christian man who is not a convert and a Christian woman with a Muslim background. Shariah law also determines that if a Christian wife converts to Islam, her husband must convert as well for their marriage to remain legal. 

Christian men who are converts to Christianity face further difficulties in an honor-shame culture when their families reject and expel them from their homes because of their choice of religion. 

The result is that such difficulties may prompt them to emigrate. It often appears to be an economic migration but is actually rooted in the situation caused by their Christian faith. Pressure on Christian families that leads to them leaving their country exerts a potentially negative effect on future church leadership, because Orthodox and Catholic churches will then have less men available for training and taking on leadership roles. 

What has changed this year?

Jordan fell by five rankings on the World Watch List, but its persecution levels have largely remained stable from last year. Violence against Christians remains very low, but pressure in all spheres of life stayed at about the same level. Jordan’s lower ranking this year is primarily attributable to the average rise in persecution among all countries on the World Watch List.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Muslims who convert from Islam are most susceptible to persecution, particularly from their family or community who oppose their conversion. Female converts to Christianity are particularly vulnerable. Additionally, Christians who help converts or who evangelize are often targeted more aggressively.   

How can I help Christians in Jordan

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Jordan?

Open Doors works in cooperation with local partners and churches in Jordan. These efforts are dedicated to providing training for Christians, as well as relief, rehabilitation and research for the situation that followers of Jesus face. Open Doors also raises prayer support for Christians in Jordan.   

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Jordan, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for Christians who worship in unregistered churches. Pray they would be able to continue to worship and that the religious freedom the government promises would be more than empty words. 

-Pray for followers of Jesus who left Islam. Pray they wouldn’t be oppressed or ostracized by their families, and that they would be safe from harm.  

-Pray for leaders in Jordan, that they would be increasingly open to religious freedom, and that the hope of Jesus would transform their hearts and minds to follow Him. 

A PRAYER FOR JORDAN 

God, we are so thankful for the level of religious freedom our brothers and sisters enjoy in Jordan. And yet, Lord, we are burdened by the oppression and persecution so many Christians in Jordan live with. Will You please protect and strengthen those followers of Jesus who are at constant risk because they worship You? We also ask that You would change the hearts of any Islamic extremists working and living in Jordan. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.  

 Photo credits: David Stanley