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Church clinic first experience for refugees to be treated as ‘more than dogs’

By May 29, 2012

Jordan (MNN) — When crisis hits in places like Syria or Iraq, it's easy to wonder why families don't just flee. But for those who do leave, life can sometimes be just as hard.

It's not at all uncommon for refugees in the Middle East to flee to Jordan as they try and escape ruthless situations. When they arrive in Jordan, though, they can be met with multiple barriers. For instance, Iraqis do not qualify for refugee status in Jordan. So for any Iraqis trying to begin again in Jordan, once their initial three-month visa runs out, they are in the country illegally.

Being an illegal immigrant has implications in Jordan as it does in any other nation. People in the country illegally cannot work. If they do find work, they risk deportation. Their children often cannot go to school. Finding housing is near impossible, and when housing is attained, it's often at exorbitant prices.

On top of the economic woes that face these refugees, social circles hold no place for them. Jordanians who are struggling to eke out a living for their own families often resent outsiders trying to live off the same land. Depending on where they are from, refugees can be more or less treated like dogs.

Yet in the midst of this bleak social and economic landscape, there is hope. The Southern Baptist International Mission Board says an evangelical church in Amman, Jordan has been reaching out to refugees and others who cannot afford medical services with its Hope Clinic. For refugees in particular, with food and housing hard to come by, healthcare is often the last thing they can afford.

When nervous refugees shuffle into the clinic, they are greeted with something they may never have seen before: kindness. IMB reports that one Iraqi woman who recently came into the clinic was so surprised to be greeted with a smile that she hesitantly asked, "Is there something wrong?"

The clinic's all-volunteer staff says that when patients discover they are going to be treated like human beings loved by God, they often say, "You are the only people who have ever treated us as something more than dogs."

Most patients who come into the clinic have chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease, says one volunteer doctor. "Having our clinic provide the necessary medicines is life saving for many of the people we see," she says.

Hope Clinic started in 1991 to offer medical care to Iraqis fleeing the Gulf War. Today, Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians, Yemenis, Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians, and other North Africans receive outpatient family medicine, optometry, physical therapy, and prenatal care. In approximately 3,600 patient visits a year, clinic staff members help refugees and other people in need experience firsthand the love of God that brings hope for new life.

Ultimately, the purpose is to be the hands and feet of Christ to people who have experienced very little love. Many soak up this new-found love and respond in gratitude to God. Staff members say Christians and Muslims alike come to the clinic just to ask for prayer.

This clinic is a part of Kingdom building in Jordan. You can help by donating to the Refugee Fund of the Southern Baptist relief group Baptist Global Response.

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