Jordanian Christians call for broader religious education, rights to adopt

By Hayat al-Dbeas

Amman, Feb 28 (EFE).- Christian families in Jordan, a majority Muslim nation, are calling for state education to include other religions in the curriculum despite the government so far turning down the request.

“The absence of Christian religious education in Jordanian public schools and its relegation to private schools” is pushing families to send their children to private schools, Omar al Naber, a member of parliament, told Efe.

The MP has lodged a request to the education ministry asking for state schools to also teach the Christian religion but it was rejected due to “the small number of Christian students” in Jordan.

Some 2.1% of 10.9 million Jordanians are Christian compared to 97.1% who are Muslim, the majority Sunni.

Advocates of broadening religious studies in state schools have been calling for the creation of a religious education course, which would cover other faiths and belief systems safeguarded under the Jordanian Constitution.

The lack of a national curriculum and the fact a tiny percentage of students and teachers are not Muslim are both hampering efforts to update Jordan’s education sector, researcher at the Royal Institute of Religious Studies, Rami Abu Naffaa, told Efe.

“Jordanian society must open up to the culture of other religions since the Christian community is an essential part of Jordanian society as a whole, so the teaching of the Christian religion is considered a necessity, not an option,” a former advisor to the education ministry, Thouqan Obeidat, added.

According to a 2022 United States state department report on religious freedom across the world, “knowledge of the Quran is required by law for Muslim students in both public and private schools but is optional for non-Muslims.”

However, all students must pass an Arabic-language exam in the final year of secondary school that includes proficiency in some verses of the Quran, and Islamic content is also used in other subjects.

Another obstacle Christian families face is the adoption of Christian children, according to Nisren Hawatmeh, founder of the Sanadak NGO, which provides services to orphans and infant victims of domestic violence.

“The biggest challenge for Christians for adoption and foster care is the absence of Christian children and Jordanian law does not allow adoption even though it is an ecclesiastical right for Christians,” she said.

Hawatmeh explained that there are no Christian children up for adoption because under article 19 of Jordan’s Civil Code orphaned newborns adopt the religion of the state, which is Islam.

“Jordanian Christians do not want to foster children, they want to adopt,” Hawatmeh said, noting that three years ago there was an attempt to discuss the issue Christians faced with adoption but the proposed amendment was rejected.

Yaqoub al Far, a family lawyer, accused the state of being “inefficient” with this issue.

“This is a violation of freedom of worship, belief and adoption,” he said.

The expert says the current political blockade contravenes the Jordanian Constitution which declares Islam the religion of the state but safeguards “the free exercise of all forms of worship and religious rites” as long as these are consistent with public order and morality.

But for now, Christians will have to continue under the Islamic “kafala” (fostering) system which allows parental authority but prevents the fostered child from taking on the foster family’s name and does not allow the child to receive an inheritance..EFE


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