Jordan (MNN) — Jordan is increasing pressure on foreign Christians living in the kingdom, expelling many long-time residents over the past 13 months. According to Compass News, local churches see this as an attack on their legitimacy.
The report indicates authorities deported or refused residence permits to at least 27 expatriate Christian families and individuals in 2007, a number of them working with local churches or studying at a Christian seminary. In all but one case, officials didn't even explain their decisions. But many of those expelled told Compass that they had been questioned by intelligence officers regarding evangelism of Muslims.
Open Doors' Al Janssen isn't surprised by the allegations. "Muslim authorities will always use that. Are they going out on the street and evangelizing? I find that hard to believe. But what if someone asks you in the privacy of a conversation, 'I want to know more about what you believe as Christians.' Is that proselytizing?" Some Muslims believe it is.
Janssen is surprised by this. "Christian families have pretty much been allowed to live there," he says. "It's been affecting the seminary and the staff there and other mission agencies. Now, suddenly, the government is turning on them and not allowing them to renew their visas."
Christians from the United States, Europe, South Korea, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq were among those deported or refused visas in 2007.
While there is no evidence that this is a long term trend, it's definitely not encouraging.
Janssen is concerned for two reasons. "Does this mean that Jordan is going to become more of a radical Islamic country? The other thing that would concern me is that other Islamic countries might be encouraged by this example of Jordan and decide they might start cracking down on Christians are well."
Janssen was asked if he thought these actions were taken because the church was growing in Jordan. "When God's at work, we shouldn't be surprised when there's a counter attack."
Those working at the Jordanian Evangelical Theological Seminary have been targets. Foreign JES students have also been denied visas. At least 10 who were deported in August and September were non-Jordanian Arab students.
The government is also restricting hotel meetings. Compass reports believers are now required to obtain a government security clearance before holding meetings in hotels, but the necessary permission is rarely granted. Foreign preachers are being asked to refrain from openly saying that they were coming to Jordan to preach. Those applications are being flatly rejected by the intelligence police.
Sarcastically, Janssen says, "There is one sure cure for persecution and that is to stop talking about Jesus. When people start coming to Jesus, there will almost always be persecution."
In the meantime, pray that the government will end their antagonism toward Christians. Pray also that believers will be given residency permits and visas so the work in Jordan can continue. Also, pray that God will allow non-Jordanian Arab believers into the country so they can get the needed theological training they need.