Jordan (MNN) – Since the first century, Christianity has been a part of Jordan, a Middle Eastern country considered a part of the Holy Land. Once a cultural and religious majority, Christianity has been on the decline in Jordan. Program for Theological Education by Extension’s Jiries says Christians make up only about 3 percent of Jordan’s bursting 9.9 million population.
“There are several problems facing Christians in Jordan. One is emigration. Christians tend to emigrate to the United States, Canada, Australia, and to other countries. But, we still have great influence in Jordan,” Jiries says.
Out of Jordan’s 130-member parliament, nine of the seats are specifically reserved for Christians. The Christians in Jordan contribute politically and historically to the nation despite the majority Muslim population.
Christians in Jordan
The term ‘Christian’ in Jordan does not mean to evangelical Christianity. Instead, the term includes Orthodox, Catholic, Protestants, and Evangelicals, and can even refer to nominal Christians. Jiries estimates the total number of evangelical Christians is about 8000 out of 160000 the total number of Christians, significantly lower than current State statistics of the Jordanian Christian population.
But why is the number of Christians decreasing in Jordan when there are reports of Muslims being more open to the Gospel than ever before in the Middle East? The answer includes a combination of Christian emigration and the small number of converts that does not exceed 2000 (personal estimation). In addition, a high percentage of Christian women marry Muslim men, and their children are registered Muslims.
“[Jordan] have immigrants from Iraq and Syria and among these immigrants, there are some opening [up] to the Gospel. Relatively speaking from a historical point of view, this is probably the first time in the history of this area that many Muslims are coming to Christ,” Jiries says.
Reaching Jordanians with the Gospel can be a bit harder than reaching immigrants because they do not have as much of a reason to be open to new things as immigrants.
“There are few Jordanians coming to Christ more than any time in the past. But still, the number is very small and it is not a movement,” Jiries says.
Challenges of Faith
On the government level, there is nothing prohibiting evangelism or religious conversion. Jiries says the constitution allows Muslims to convert to Christianity if they want. However, challenges arise with the ‘family law‘. Islamic Family Law affects matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and more in a Muslim’s life. To convert from Islam, a Muslim may be taken before the Islamic court by anybody. Jiries says, even after going to court, it is “officially impossible to change his religion because, it implies divorce and all its implication including becoming a ward of state. The High Court of Justice (civil court) cannot overrules the verdicts of Islamic court.”
But, through relationships, Christians share about Christ and His love. People do this with friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. In Jordan, it is normal to discuss religion and personal faith. Jiries says sharing Christ is easiest when a Christian makes evangelism a way of life.
PTEE’s Role in Education
This is where PTEE enters. PTEE educates leaders for the Arab Church in Jordan and the Arab World.
“PTEE train believers and leaders. Our target is not only, for example—young people, but any age can study with PTEE because the idea is that the book is the teacher, and classes can be hold at any convenient place especially the churches,” Jiries explains.
“In any place where PTEE have ministry, classes are small and the number of students does not usually exceed 12 and the average is 6.5. A facilitator leads the class. His role is not to lecture or teach but mainly to lead discussions.
PTEE program BA in theology is accredited by Asia Theology Association (ATA) and also by the Middle East and North Africa Association for Theological Education (MENATE).”
PTEE also offers a certificate of ministry for individuals who do not have a high school education or enough time to study courses that are more time consuming. The organization also offers classes for new Christians to learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ.
When people take these courses, Jiries says they are often enthusiastic to have training in theology and church leadership. Moreover, PTEE’s courses do not require participants to move to other countries or even towns to complete their education. Instead, students study at a local church or other local place convenient to the students. They continue with family life, keep their jobs, and stay in church ministry or leadership.
Will you be a part of PTEE’s work to educate Arab Christians throughout the Arab world, but especially in Jordan where the Christian population is decreasing?
To start, Jiries asks you to become a prayer partner. Pray for PTEE’s ability to meet educational needs and for the coursework to continue to be affordable for students. Pray also for the students’ growth and the application of their course material.
Another way to help is by financially partnering with PTEE to continue providing affordable theological education for the Arab World.
To learn more and to give, click here!
“You know I believe that PTEE is very relevant to our situation in the Arab world because you can train the people in any country, in any place, and new converts from whatever background they have. PTEE will be a tool for them for the advancement of the Kingdom,” Jiries says.
Header photo by Stefanos Orovas on Unsplash.