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The Orthodox Initiative at the Refugee Camps in Jordan
by Wafa Goussous*
A request from Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy city Jerusalem all Palestine and Jordan was sent to us from Jerusalem expressing his wish to visit the Syrian refugees at the borders, Albadia Al shamalia (Northern Badia) where hundreds of Syrian refugees are living in scattered camps. His Beatitude follows our work closely and wanted to check on the refugee’s conditions in this cold winter and to congratulate them on the occasion of Al Mawled Al nabawee al-shareef (the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which is celebrated just like we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ) and Christmas.
Upon his arrival the children of the camp sung their best songs to the patriarch and the delegation as a way of greeting and appreciating his visit. The men stood in line to shake hands with the guests as a sign of respect and appreciation. One man was standing offering Arabic coffee and the women were present too. Tents were empty, all people were out in reception of the guests. This is an Arab Syrian tradition of telling the guest how much they value the visit. Flash back, when the Magi saw the Star, followed it and offered their gifts to new born Christ.
His Beatitude asked us to be part of the distribution, this time we brought to children winter boots, hats and scarves, knowing that the weather conditions in this part of the kingdom are very cold and windy and these items must be delivered as soon as possible. In addition, we have distributed food parcels that contained 17 food items designed by the refugees themselves, as they have requested food that can give them more energy like candy, chocolate and cookies. Lollipops were offered to every child.
Basma a young girl, who was born with no hair on her head, came dressed with a new hat and a red dress for the occasion, but to our surprise this time she looked so tiny, she had lost so much weight and was not speaking to us. Looking around at most of the children we all noticed that they did not look healthy. I carried Basma like she was a feather in my arms.
We are determined to make a difference in this camp. Basma is just like any other girl in the world and she has the right to eat well and receive all that she needs to grow up without any disease or disability. She was born without hair on her head but we must work to compensate by helping her to live a normal life.
Patriarch Theophilos during an interview at a near by cafe called upon the peoples of the world to step in and be the modern Magi. The international community must contribute more to help Jordan in carrying the burden. “A stranger and you received me, hungry and you gave me food, naked and you clothed me.” The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been applying Mathew 25 since 1948.
* Wafa Goussous is Director at the Middle East Council of Churches Orthodox Initiative, a non-governmental organization helping the refugees of the Syrian crisis.