Jordan: Aggresive prosyletism by sects upsets social balance

Jehovah's Witnesses and other quasi-Christian sects are presenting serious challenges to the delicate balance of tolerance in Syria, where traditional Orthodox and Catholics live precariously among Muslims.

 

 Jehovah's Witnesses and religious sects of U.S. origin, with their propaganda methods, create problems for the other faith communities of ancient tradition and their relations with the Muslim majority in the Mideast, according to Father Rifat Bader, a Jordanian and Catholic priest who directs the Catholic Center for Studies and Media, based in Amman.
 
"Recently," explains Father Bader, "many families call me to point out the insistence with which Jehovah's Witnesses ask to enter their houses to distribute propaganda materials. Those who in turn joined them, immediately began to publicly express their hostility towards the Christian community that they previously belonged to."
 
The priest said that in 2008, before the efforts of the sects and their preachers became notable, leaders of the historic churches of Jordan expressed in a document their shared concern. "Jehovah's Witnesses and activists of other sects" said Fr. Bader "go to towns and villages and make propaganda but also with some Muslim families. They cite their Bible and their Gospel. Even when they do not share the belief in the Trinity, they speak of Jesus, and are perceived as Christians."
 
Father Bader said that the sects "confuse people and violate the traditional respect" in Jordanian society, so that the traditional religious communities avoid giving the appearance of avoiding  "proselytism among the members of other groups."
 
According to the Jordanian priest, the phenomenon is also a pastoral challenge: "If our people suffer the lure of sects, it means that they have not really enjoyed the richness of the faith in which they were well educated." At the same time, Father Bader does not believe that his alarm expresses a conception contrary to religious freedom, saying  "We hope everyone may in the Arab world fully express their freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. But the methods of aggressive proselytism, towards communities of believers, cannot be justified with reference to these principles. " 


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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