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“This is a project for all: the elderly, youth, women and men. It may be hard at first, but they know now with social media and outside connections of the need to adapt to this new era,” Mr. Bahou says. “I believe people will be happy, especially the pensioners.

“No one,” he adds, “is working for the elderly.”

Mr. Bahou says that CNEWA has been involved in the area since the early 1950’s promoting pastoral, developmental and catechetical projects. Among these have been the renovation and restoration of churches as well as income generation projects such as sheep breeding and truck rentals.

“We have helped these communities for decades and want to continue our support of the local churches here,” he says of the villages whose sons and daughters serve the church worldwide as priests, religious and lay leaders.

In December 2016, six young Jordanian men sympathetic to ISIS carried out a terrorist attack in Kerak, killing a Canadian tourist and 13 Jordanians. The assault jolted the nearby Christians and Muslim communities alike, which have a long history of mutual respect and cooperation.

To promote continued faith and hope in the community, Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil visited the region in January on behalf of the Canadian Catholic bishops. CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, and CNEWA’s Canadian national director, Carl Hétu, joined him — the first non-Jordanian civilians to visit the area in the wake of the terrible incident.

“Although the Christian communities near Kerak are somewhat isolated, all know what is happening to their brothers and sisters of the faith in Iraq and Syria,” recalls Mr. Hétu. “Our visit was intended to express our solidarity and our commitment to the region for the long haul.”

At the grassroots level, Father Baqa’in strives to keep his parish and community healthy, hopeful and prosperous. He sees the new internet training program as critical to this aim, and has been a driving force behind it.

“Fresh ideas and thinking are wonderful for the old. We also hope to offer skills for the youth and allow job prospects to take root in the villages,” the priest says.

“In Amman, people find that it’s all about business, with few social relationships. But in the villages, there are relationships between all the Christians and our neighbors. We hope to find plenty of work for them,” says Father Baqa’in.

Smakieh’s Father Ziyadeh agrees, adding: “We are interested in improving our church and our lives — everything.”

Parishioners, too, are excited about the possibilities.

Nasreen Moukieen, 32, believes technological training will prove invaluable. She and many of her neighbors are eager for the planned seminars on medical and dietary issues, as they have the usual health concerns as they age.

In this region, Sameh Kowaleed says, “no real possibilities for entertainment centers, clubs or gardens to socialize exist.” The 42-year-old hopes the initiative will provide “a fresh wave of opportunity, culture and creativity to the people of the south.”

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