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Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
  
3 November 2016
Peter Jesserer Smith




A 15-year-old Iraqi Christian youth taking classes at the Pontifical Mission Community Center shows off his artistry next to his mother. (photo: Peter Jesserer Smith)

Editor’s note: Journalist Peter Jesserer Smith of the National Catholic Register recently completed a visit to Jordan with other Christian writers and journalists, and saw first-hand some of the important work CNEWA’s donors are supporting.

At the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman, Jordan, a man known simply as “Mr. Sami” teaches the fundamentals of English to a class filled with young and old alike. Both the teacher, a respected man in his 60’s, and his class share a common tragedy: they are all Iraqi Christian refugees who fled ISIS.

Most, like Mr. Sami, are from Mosul or the surrounding villages on the Nineveh Plain. They aim to find a better life in Australia, the U.S. or Canada — but they feel they can never return to Iraq. Mr. Sami says they no longer want to be subject to persecution, and no longer felt safe there.

Rafid, a young man who studied medical device technology at the university, said the Iraqi government failed to protect them from ISIS or other extremists. He did not have any confidence that would change. But he also said their lives were in legal limbo until they were resettled.

“We can’t work and stay here in Jordan,” he said.

Since the Christians primarily speak Aramaic, not Arabic, Mr. Sami helps them learn English so they can manage the transition of resettlement in another country.

“I also teach the Catholic catechism, and spirituality of our religion,” he said.

The members of the Teresian Association, a lay apostolate, run the Pontifical Mission Community Center, which serves the local population, as well as the refugee Christians. The center hosts public lectures, prayer sessions, Christian formation classes, and lessons in basic English and music.

One refugee named Nichole said she was taking guitar lessons from one of the Teresians.

“I want to sing to the Lord in the Church,” she said.

Jordanian Christian and Muslim students do homework together at the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman. (photo: Peter Jesserer Smith)

The building’s basement rooms serve as a meeting place for the Christian refugees, both for socialization and prayer. Refugees support each other as they deal with the uncertainty of when their case will get processed through the United Nations refugee agency. Others try to call, but they say the answer is always the same: “Later, later, later.”

In the meantime, the Teresians sisters at the Pontifical Mission Community Center do what they can to help the Christian refugees, in addition to their mission of providing a library and community center for the local population. The center is a place where Christian and Muslim youth come to read or do homework together.

CNEWA funds the center’s work, and its mission to the community. But they need to increase their resources, so they can purchase more Arabic and English books, particularly for the Christian refugees.

“Our help is the only help for them,” Teresian Amabel Sibug said. “We’re trying to do all we can.”

Those who wish to support the Teresian Association can make a donation through CNEWA, and must specify they want their gift to support the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman.