Jordan. The first thing I was told upon arrival in Jordan is that, since the days of the Bible, there has been a promise on this country that it would be a safe harbour, a shelter for others.
Palestine lies to the West of Jordan. Ever since Israel was recognised as a nation in 1948, conflict has ebbed and flowed in Palestine. With each ebb, more Palestinians have made their home in Jordan, so much so that Jordanians of Palestinian origin outnumber Jordanians of Jordanian origin, by about 4 to 1.
To the East of Jordan we find Iraq. Ever since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s, Iraqis have fled to Jordan. Both Gulf wars saw a swelling of the Iraqi population in Jordan, although unlike Palestinians, most Iraqis have been eventually been granted residence in other countries around the world, or else have returned to Iraq.
To the North of Jordan is Syria. The number of Syrians currently residing in Jordan is around half a million, an increase of about 20% in the past month alone. Estimates are that within a year, there may be one million Syrians in Jordan – this represents about a full 15% of the population of Jordan.
And Jordan is still here. As far as we can tell, the government is stable. Poverty may be rampant but few people are starving. In addition to refugees from neighbouring countries, a large number of migrant workers from Egypt, the Philippines and various other countries have come to live in Jordan, seeking a better life.
And Jordan is still here. I sit in the food court of a swanky mall in the capital Amman as I write this. I’m surrounded by families enjoying each other’s company, by young men and groups of schoolgirls having a fun evening out. All the modern technologies are available for sale in the mall’s electronics stores, and all the trendy clothing brands are available in the boutique shops. Sure, most Jordanians can’t afford these things, but their streets are comfortingly the same as they were when I last visited this country four years ago, as are the foods and the value of their currency and the way they dress. Jordan is still here.
May God bless Jordan and may Jordan still be here for many many years to come.