Saturday, 22 December 2018 15:38

Interreligious celebration of Christmas in Jordan

Elisa Estrada greets King Abdullah II Elisa Estrada greets King Abdullah II

AMMAN, Jordan.

Members of the Teresian Association participate in an interreligious Christmas celebration promoted by King Abdullah II.


1 Elisa Estrada and Elmer DumlaoElisa Estrada, Director of the Pontifical Mission Library and Center in Amman, and Elmer Dumlao, member of the Friends of Poveda, a TA movement in Jordan, have been participating in the interreligious celebration with the theme “Jordan Land of Faith and Fellowship”.

On December 18 2018 at the Al Hussein Cultural Centre, King Abdullah II convened an interreligious celebration of Christmas with the theme, “Jordan Land of Faith and Fellowship”. In attendance with the King was Prince Hussein Ibn Abdullah II, and high-ranking civic officials and leaders of various religious denominations from Jordan and Jerusalem, among them, Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, Head of the Jerusalem Awqaf Council, President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, head of Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarchate and Bishop William Shomali, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan.

In 1999, when King Abdulla II of Jordan ascended the throne, he declared that Christmas was to be a holiday celebrated by Jordanian Christians and Muslims alike, a gesture that proves that under his leadership “Faith and Fellowship” is the guiding principle for people of diverse cultures and different religious orientation to live together in harmony.

This event which highlighted the importance of peaceful co-existence and inter-faith dialogue, prominent dimensions of the life and mission of the Teresian Association in Jordan, was a wonderful opportunity for it to be represented in the person of Elisa Estrada, in her capacity as Director of the CNEWA Pontifical Mission Library and Center, that offers indelible contribution to the Jordanian Society, the migrants and the refugees, not to forget its dynamic support to the Catholic Church. Elmer Dumlao, member of the Friends of Poveda in Jordan, a Teresian Association Movement, an artist and photographer, was present too for this auspicious occasion.

Testimonies supporting the initiative

elisaYaserAl AyyashSeveral Church leaders have expressed their appreciation of the King’s effort in maintaining peace and stability in the region despite endless sectarian conflicts and hostilities.

— Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, head of Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarchate in his speech stressed the familial co-existence of people: “In Jordan, we all enjoy several blessings. We are one family”. He added: “This country, even if it is small in size, it is a cornerstone for stability in all the region”.
— Rev. Fr. Nabil Haddad, a Melkite Priest and Head of the Jordanian Interfaith Co-existence Research Center told the Catholic News Service (CNS), “This gathering reflects the fraternity that we have here. We have a legacy of 1,400 years between Muslims and Christians. The followers of Christianity and Islam in Jordan have both learned how to maintain this holy, sacred fraternity. We take it very seriously and cherish it, also for the sake of Jerusalem’s holy place”.
— The Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, Bishop William Shomali, speaking to CNS stressed, “This spirit of interreligious harmony is important today, where there is a confrontation of cultures and religions in the world. At least Jordan, a small country in the middle of a big conflict in the Middle East, is giving a positive example of coexistence and mutual respect between different religions, like a beautiful mosaic”.
— Rev. Fr. Rifat Bader, Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in an interview with CNS expressed, “We are very happy with this meeting and with His Majesty the king who says: ‘Merry Christmas to the Christian community. Christmas is for everybody’.”.

The life and mission of TA members in Jordan is both a response and support to the project to promote and maintain peace and harmony in the region, while serving as a key to the survival of humanity.

Enjoying 33 years of faithful service, two members of the Teresian Association -Elisa Estrada and Amabel Sibug-, through the CNEWA Center, continue to undertake creative and relevant programs to address the above needs. In addition to offering Socio-Educative activities to local Jordanians, we include care for Filipino migrants, offering spiritual and human development workshops, religious education and catechetical lessons; care for refugees and Arab migrants taking English Language Course in preparation for migrating to their host countries. To this day, with the difference in age level of refugees taking lessons, the Center enjoys the generosity of volunteer teachers from Europe and the U.S.A.

Meeting a member of the Teresian Association, one can presume that the King must have felt God’s blessing when Elisa told him: “Your majesty, for thirty years, I have been praying for you”.

Text: Amabel Sibug.
Photos: Elmer Dumlao.