Jordan — June 2010

Sociopolitical Situation

In the current global economic climate, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan struggles economically. The government made a list of economic targets to achieve by the end of the year. They include elevating to 4 percent the country’s average rate of economic growth, reducing the budget deficit, maintaining the public debt below 60 percent of the GDP, and reining in inflation.

Jordan’s economic future is in the service sector. Services already comprise 70 percent of the economy and employ 75 percent of the workforce. Jordan’s manufacturing industries are small-scale and dependent on local markets. The agricultural sector suffers from a lack of fertile land and water.

In its latest report, UN Habitat ranked Jordan’s capital, Amman, as home to the largest proportion of refugees in the world. Approximately 500,000 Iraqi and 1.9 million Palestinian refugees live in Amman, straining the city’s infrastructure and health care and education systems.

For a second time, Jordanian authorities facilitated the participation of resident Iraqi citizens in Iraqi elections. On 5-7 March, 16 election centers and 113 polling stations were opened for three days in four governorates; Amman, Irbid, Madaba and Zerqa. According to the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission and the Iraqi Embassy in Amman, between 150,000 and 180,000 Iraqis of voting age live in Jordan. Only 24,717 voted.

Violence among university students from different clans continues to escalate. The causes of the fighting are multiple, including familial and/or tribal feuds, the harassment of female students and disputed student council elections. Most of the students involved are males. The majority earned low or average scores on the high school exit exams and earned low or average grades in college. A new policy is under consideration that will help educational institutions reduce violence and discrimination among students.

Religious Situation

This past year, Jordan ranked tenth in the world in terms of growth in the number of tourists it welcomes. The pope’s visit in May 2009 was among the main reasons for this increase in tourists.

Jordanian authorities continue to develop the 86-acre baptismal site. Plans include 13 new churches, hotels and campsites. So far, authorities have approved building projects for six churches.

Jordan has a total of about 6 million people, of whom up to 250,000 are Christian. Most of these Christians, 105,000, belong to the Greek Orthodox community. Some 50,000 are Latin Catholic; 32,000 are Melkite Greek Catholic; the rest belong to the Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Maronite, Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic and Evangelical Protestant churches.

Unlike other predominantly Arab countries in the region, Jordan enjoys peace and stability. The king stresses the importance of the Amman Message: “building bridges of understanding between followers of different religions and cultures.” As a result, for the most part, Jordan’s different religious communities peacefully coexist.

Despite support from the king, but in line with larger regional trends, Christians are emigrating. While the causes of Christian emigration are often multiple and complex, most leave Jordan for better economic and educational opportunities elsewhere.

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