Monday, December 11, 2017

L'Orient-Le Jour on Jordanian Christians' Reaction to Trump's Statement on Jerusalem

French original here.

"Trump is one of those that they call Christian Zionists"

In an Orthodox church in Amman, during the liturgy, priests and believers criticize the decision of the American president to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

by Laure van Ruymbeke in Amman

It is a Sunday unlike other Sundays for the Christians of Jordan. This morning, all the country's homilies are talking about Jerusalem. In support, they say, of Christians and Muslims throughout the world. Jordanian Christians of all communities represent close to 6% of the population. In Amman's largest church, the Orthodox church of al-Waibdeh, faces are sad. At eight in the morning the regular liturgy begins. A choir sings the prayers. Little by little, the pews fill up. Then, around ten o'clock, Fr Mark starts to preach about Jerusalem. He appears very angry. From behind his pulpit shaped like a bird, he declares, "Trump is one of those that they call Christian Zionists."

The tone is set. "This is a sect of around 40 million people. But Zionism and Christianity don't go together. He is not Christian. So he has no right to speak in the name of Jerusalem, from a religious point of view. No one would dare do what he's doing," he states. Before the very attentive eyes of the community, he continues his sermon for half an hour. He announces that the American decision will only create chaos. "Trump is the leader of the biggest country and everyone is afraid of him. And everyone likes him because everyone has deals with him. He's a luggage carrier." He calls the American president "Antichrist," which provokes laughter from the faithful. A woman whispers, "But he has no right! Why doesn't anyone stop him?" At the end of the sermon, prayers are dedicated to the "prisoners of Palestine."

"It's Jesus' city."
As people leave the church, Jerusalem is one everyone's lips. The sermon was appreciated and shared. One woman says, "Jerusalem is our holy city. For Christians, Muslims and also Jews. Trump has no right to declare that it is only for the Israelis. He should take into account of the people who have rights in Palestine. Jerusalem is an international city." Her neighbor chimes in, "For Christians, it's Jesus' city, the place where he was resurrected... So it cannot just be for the Israelis. He [i.e., Trump] should let go of it now and forever. He has his own vision that favors Israel. Why? We have rights in Palestine! Which go back for more than two thousand years! He has no right to do this." The "illegality" and "injustice" of Trump's decision come up most often. "For us, Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world," says a man around sixty years old wearing a red keffieh. "Mr Trump, with all respect, should try to find a solution rather than create problems. His decision is unjust and illegal."

Fr Salem al-Mdanat agrees to share his point of view. He is the one who leads prayers every Sunday. He is in agreement with the words of the priest who says that Donald Trump is not a Christian. "There are a lot of people who call themselves Christians but who aren't. Someone who seeks to create a war is not, in any sense, a Christian because Jesus Christ said that the peacemakers are blessed. It is not because one wears a cross that one is a Christian. The Zionists insult Jesus Christ." He adds that Jerusalem is the symbol of Christianity and of holiness. According to him, Jerusalem is for Christians what Mecca is for Muslims. "It's the place of the symbolic birth, of the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It's the landmark for all Christians throughout the world. Whatever their churches are. So it is not fair for one country to go against the other countries." According to him, this decision will only create problems in the region. "This will create terrorism and, frankly, we don't need it."

Katy Mansour is an 80 year old woman. She has a discrete cross around her neck and is very well-dressed. In her quiet voice, she recounts that she was born in Jerusalem and that she had to flee the city in 1948 because her mother was afraid. The American president's announcement was a great shock for her. "This is a president who doesn't own anything in Palestine and who gives people what he doesn't own... What does he have to do with the people who live in this country? They came from everywhere to live in Palestine. And they say that it's their country... But why? Tell me, why? It's too unjust." She says that she's not speaking as a Christian, but as an Arab. Because before the "occupation," everyone lived together, including the Jews. "I was born in Jerusalem," she continues, "and now I have to request a visa to go to my country?  But why? There are no words for this, it's terrible... This man is terrible. I don't believe that the Americans themselves, except for the Christian Zionists, agree with him. For me, Jerusalem isn't the east. It isn't the west. It doesn't belong to one religion or another."

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