Jordan: A Toned-down Christmas

December 26, 2022
St. John the Baptist Church in Jordan

Discretion and restraint are the order of the day for Christians in Jordan. While the Hashemite kingdom is in the grip of violent social movements which the Islamists seek to take advantage of, the leaders of the various Christian denominations have asked their faithful to keep a low profile during the Nativity celebrations.

“If one member suffers, all the members suffer with him.… We stand alongside the inhabitants of this country in difficulty.” It is on the basis of the first epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (12:26) that the Catholic bishops of Jordan – together with the leaders of the other Christian denominations – asked the faithful to experience the Christmas celebrations in sobriety, refraining from “showing their joy by too conspicuous family events.”

The Hashemite Kingdom has been living for several weeks in an extremely tense social context: on December 17, 2022, during a demonstration against rising fuel prices, a senior police official, Colonel Abdelrazzak Aldalabih, was shot dead.

The next day, authorities announced the arrest of 44 people accused of belonging to “groups of vandals and outlaws” responsible for the riots in the Maan governorate.

The funeral of the victim, in his hometown of Jerash, was attended by 10,000 people. King Abdullah II himself spoke out, saying those responsible for the murder would be punished. The following December 19, during a raid by security forces in the town of Maan, aimed at arresting suspects, a shooting left three police officers dead and five injured.

An operation that led to the arrest of eight other people, while the national media began to present the main suspect neutralized in the attack, as a radical Islamist linked to Takfirism, an ideology which advocates the obligation of armed jihad against the established powers, whether Christian or Muslim, marking a schism within Salafism.

Fuel prices have almost doubled in Jordan compared to last year, especially for diesel, generally used by trucks and buses, and kerosene, the main heating fuel, sparking a movement among truck drivers, quickly followed by taxi drivers: a godsend for the extremists who try to seize every opportunity to destabilize the government.

It is in this context that the Jordanian prelates have asked the Christian minority to avoid organizing festivities that might exacerbate the feelings of anger and concern that have gripped part of the population.

A decision that will affect Catholics as well as the Orthodox at the same time: since 1975, all the Christian denominations present in Jordan have celebrated Holy Christmas on December 25.

That year, everyone had agreed on a mechanism whereby all the baptized in the Hashemite Kingdom would celebrate the Solemnity of Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar, while Easter would be celebrated by all according to the Julian calendar.