Jordan — June 2009

Sociopolitical Situation

King Abdullah’s view that the creation of a new sovereign Arab Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan is the only path to peace must be seriously investigated. Groundwork exists and the two-state settlement has been agreed to by the parties and the entire international community. To that end, the king encouraged U.S. President Barack Obama to take the first step. “Now is the time for the U.S. to lead, to ensure no more time is wasted, the dangers are too many and too big to ignore. ”

According to the president of the World Bank Group, Jordan’s economy will be able to overcome the impact of the global economic crisis. In a meeting with the prime minister, he highlighted the facilities and reforms that the government has adopted to ease the procedures for starting up new business ventures in the kingdom. Both sides also reviewed World Bank financed projects in the fields of energy, water and infrastructure. Both agreed the World Bank would send technical teams to follow-up current projects and examine new proposals. It is expected that Jordan’s economy will grow in 2009 by 3 or 4 percent, which is the same percentage expected by the International Monetary Fund.

Since the beginning of the global economic meltdown, unemployment in Jordan has increased by 1 percent. There are concerns that Jordanian workers in the Gulf region could lose their jobs, exacerbating socioeconomic instability in a region where unemployment has reached almost 14 percent in several Arab states.

Although local laws prohibit the employment of children below the age of 16, there are more than 32,676 children working in Jordan. Of these, according to an international report, 90 percent are between 12 and 17 years of age and work in auto maintenance, trade and agriculture. The government is working on ways to reduce the number of child laborers by 4,000 by initiating a number of education alternatives. It is also working to prevent 4,000 others from becoming engaged in the worst forms of child labor.

The prevalence of tuberculosis is on the rise states the Health Ministry. The ministry has launched campaigns to highlight the importance of early detection, in addition to providing free-of-charge diagnosis and medication to reduce the prevalence of the disease.

Tourism in Jordan was impacted by the economic downturn, although the extent of this effect remains uncertain and some segments will be influenced more than others. However, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI was seen as a significant boost for Jordanian efforts to promote its religious tourism offerings.

Religious Situation

Pope Benedict XVI concluded an eight-day pilgrimage of peace and reconciliation to Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The pope met with the king and queen as well as other members of the royal family and Muslim and Christian leaders. More than 18,000 people from all over the world — including 400 children, many of them Iraqis — gathered to celebrate an outdoor Mass in Amman. The pontiff also visited the Moses memorial church on Mount Nebo and Our Lady of Peace Center, an Amman-based institution for persons with disabilities. Benedict also blessed the foundation stones of the Latin and Melkite Greek Catholic churches at the Baptismal site and the cornerstone of Madaba University, where he said the young Muslim and Christian adults will benefit side-by-side from a tertiary education, enabling them to contribute to the social and economic development of their nation.

In a speech, the pope urged Muslim and Christian Jordanians to build on the firm foundations of religious tolerance that he said enable the members of different communities to live together in peace and mutual respect. His visit to the King Hussein Bin Talal Mosque — where he met Muslim and Christian leaders — was the highlight of the visit to Jordan. He also praised the government’s support for the development of Christian holy sites (which has offered land for churches and pilgrimage centers) and its efforts to bolster the kingdom’s tiny Christian presence. These activities, church sources believe, enhance the kingdom’s position, stature and role in the peace process and Christian-Islamic dialogue.

Cardinal Emmanuel Delly, Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, arrived in Jordan accompanied by other Iraqi Catholic hierarchs to meet with the pope. The Cardinal also celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Iraqi Christians at the Chaldean Catholic Vicariate in Amman. According to the United Nations, Christians registered as refugees in Jordan now number 10,000 people. Before his return to Iraq, the patriarch encouraged all Iraqis to remain in the homeland of their fathers, urging them not to leave their country for any reason.

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