December 9, 2007
We arrived in Amman in mid-September and have already become quite fond of our new home and colleagues. We’re enjoying new friends and food, learning to navigate the streets of Amman and struggling to learn Arabic.
We are working with MCC programs in Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Palestine-Israel. Already, we’ve had opportunity to visit MCC staff and partners in each country except Iran, which we hope to travel to in the next month.
For those of you who know something about Amman, we live and work in Jabal al-Webdah near the 2nd and 3rd Circles. We worship with an English-speaking Anglican congregation in Jabal Amman.
MCC generally works through local partners – churches and non-government organizations (NGOs) — rather than initiating its own projects. In Jordan, MCC supports schools run by Catholic and Episcopal churches. MCC also assists many small “benevolent societies” — or community based groups — that support income-generating and water projects in their communities. On December 7, we hosted a Christmas dinner for the MCC Jordan staff, along with guests from Canada and the United States.
There is some evidence that the security situation is beginning to improve in Iraq. Still, it’s too early to tell whether this positive trend will continue. There are more than 4 million uprooted Iraqis who live as refugees in Syria, Jordan and other neighboring countries, or are internally-displaced within Iraq.
We traveled to Iraq in late November and were impressed by the creative peacebuilding work that churches and NGOs are doing under incredibly difficult circumstances. By some estimates, some 350,000 Christians – almost half of the Christian community in Iraq – have left the country since 2003. MCC recently placed its first worker in Iraq since 2003. He teaches English at a seminary in Erbil.
MCC has worked in Iran since 1991 and has participated in a student exchange program since 1998. Currently, two U.S. citizens live and study in Qom and an Iranian family is studying near a Mennonite community in Ontario.
In early December, U.S. intelligence agencies issued a consensus view that Iran halted any nuclear weapons program in 2003. This has taken the wind out of the sails of talk about U.S. military attacks on Iran. The region is breathing a collective sigh of relief.
MCC has worked in Palestine since 1949 and currently supports Palestinian and Israeli partners who are engaged in peacemaking, refugee issues, development and income-generating projects.
We have traveled twice Palestine to visit MCC workers and partners. MCC currently has five adult staff and three children living in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.