The Common Good

Seeking Peace and Dignity in Jordan

1100315-jordan-lifeWhen I announced my plans to go to Jordan several weeks ago for a press trip, my son replied, "You are the only person wanting to go to the Middle East right now." That was several weeks ago when people were fleeing from Egypt and Tunisia. And he was right, my plane to Jordan was less than half full.

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Some of the Arab world is experiencing a paradigm shift. Democracy is the buzz word in the air. But the people I talked to within the last two days are both hesitant and expectant. The surprising events in Egypt embolded some to speak out.

Every Friday in Jordan there are demonstrations after prayers with several hundred people. The police pass out water, soda, and sandwiches. People start in the center of Amman and walk to the Egyptian Embassy or some other point.

There are also shows of solidarity with the king. One taxi was covered with Jordanian flags and photocopies of King Abdullah. Other cars flew flags and honked their horns. We passed a group asking for the release of people who have been arrested since the demonstrations in Egypt began. The crowd was small and orderly. Signs announced their cause. The right to assemble is evident here.

A young professional woman I met during my trip stated that the situation in Jordan is very different than those in other Arab nations. Unlike Egypt which has moved beyond family names to two first names, Jordanian names are very connected to one's tribe. The Hashemite minority works in balance with the Palestinian majority.

"The king is very smart and clever," said one young man. "The people requested a change in government and he gave them a new prime minister. He listened to the request and responded. Even if the response was not what some people wanted, they realize that King Abdullah is listening."

A non-governmental organization director who has been in Jordan since the 1960's stressed the importance for people in the West to understand that the Middle East would like to become partners in the international community, not just be another Western-backed government. They want a voice in their destiny. "Maybe it is time for the West to be introspective about how far democracy has strayed from the ideal and make our own changes."

The paradigm shift in this part of the world is based on God's justice and having one's voice heard concerning one's future. An older man stated that Jordan has been an oasis of peace and stability in the region.

The psalmist said, "Seek peace and pursue it." Jordan has been proactive in peace and has signed peace treaties with its neighbors, including Israel. Will Jordan continue to pursue peace? Insha'Allah. God willing.

Trish Edwards-Konic is the pastor of two rural Quaker churches in southeast Colorado. She previously was the editor of Quaker Life magazine and Friends United Press.

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