Jordan (MNN) – Christianity was once the religious majority in Jordan and other countries in the Middle East. Yet, over the centuries, as Islam has entered into the region and there were Muslim conquests in the Middle East and North Africa, Christianity has gradually declined.
“When the crusaders came to this area in the 11th century, the Christian in this area were still more than 50 percent,” The Program for Theological Education by Extension’s (PTEE) Abhul says.
He explains that in the 13th century there was heavy persecution in Syria and Egypt, which further led to a decline in Christianity. By the first world war, the percentage of Christians in Jordan and other Middle Eastern countries including Syria and Lebanon were about 26 percent.
“But now, [Christians] do not exceed eight percent,” throughout the Middle East, Abhul says.
“So, in general speaking, Christianity in our area is decreasing, and the decreasing is not because the Christian[s] are moving to Islam, but merely because of emigration and the size of the household is smaller than the Muslim household so this is making it less.”
Religiously Mixed Marriages
Religiously mixed marriages have created both larger Muslim households and had a role in the emigration of more Christians.
Abhul explains that Muslim men are permitted to marry Christian women, however, Christian men are not allowed to marry Muslim women.
“According to the statistics, it is about 28 percent of Christian girls married Muslim [men]. So, the percentage is very high.”
While the government accepts these marriages, Abhul says it’s looked down upon in the Christian culture.
“The Christian does not accept his daughter to marry a Muslim because he feel[s] this is a shame and it is [an] insult to the family and so, some families may kill his daughter if she married a Muslim.”
Abhul adds that he hasn’t heard of killings like this in years.
On the reverse side, Christian men are not allowed to marry Muslim women.
Jordanian law allows a Christian to become a Muslim, but a Muslim cannot become a Christian officially.
“There is no full equality between Christian and Muslim regarding religion… as a Christian, you have full freedom. You may continue to be Christian and you may turn to Islam,” Abhul says.
“A Muslim cannot openly become a Christian. I mean, there are Muslims in Jordan that become a Christian, but it is not [legal].”
Following these rules, if a Christian man and Muslim woman were to marry and have a child, their child would not have a declared religion, and therefore, they would not be able to legally register the child with the Jordan government.
This has forced some Christians and religiously mixed families to emigrate from the country so they can declare their religion in another nation. Others have left because they have converted from Islam to Christianity.
Pray for believers in Jordan and the Middle East. Pray for religious freedom and equality. Pray also that Christianity would once again flourish throughout the Middle East.
PTEE is uplifting Christian leaders in the Middle East by offering seminary classes. Pray the Lord would use PTEE students to spread the Truth throughout the region.