Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
14 November 2016
Peter Jesserer Smith

At the Mother of Mercy Clinic in Zerqa, Jordan, different faiths work together in harmony. Here, a Muslim nurse administers a vaccination to a baby, as his mother and one of the Dominican sisters at the clinic look on. (photo: Peter Jesserer Smith)

Editor’s note. Journalist Peter Jesserer Smith of the National Catholic Register recently completed a visit to Jordan with other Christian writers and journalists, and saw first-hand some of the important work CNEWA’s donors are supporting. We recently featured his impressions of the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman. This week, he takes us to Jordan’s Mother of Mercy Clinic:

At CNEWA’s Mother of Mercy Clinic, Dominican sisters and Muslim medical professionals work side-by-side to bring health, healing and compassion to the poor and the refugee families seeking their out-patient services.

“People from far away come, because we respect everyone here,” said Sister Miriam, one of the three Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena who run the clinic. “They each feel treated like a person.”

Dr. Hanin Mohammed is one of two doctors working at the clinic, which provides general care, but specializes in pre-natal and post-natal care. She sees on average 75 to 100 patients a day in the space of six hours.

“We have a well-trained and experienced staff,” she said.

Zerqa is Jordan’s third largest city and has a population of more than one million people. Dr. Mohammed said she treats a number of respiratory infections and asthma from the industrial air pollution.

The Mother of Mercy Clinic is located near Zerqa’s Palestinian refugee camp, but it has also been serving the influx of Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Dr. Mohammed said she has had to treat diseases once deemed eradicated, such as tuberculosis, as well as disabilities from “relative marriages,” and child malnutrition. The clinic administers approximately 370 vaccinations per month.

The one area where Dr. Mohammed believes the clinic needs more resources is psychological support — not just for refugees who have suffered the trauma of war, but also poor families afflicted by domestic violence.

“The psychological damage is severe,” she said. Dr. Mohammed noted that many children from Syria have difficulty sleeping due to what they suffered. Some of these victims may need “pharmacological treatments” that the clinic cannot yet afford.

CNEWA’s support has helped provide the clinic with equipment it needs to offer medical ultrasounds, plus new blood testing equipment that has helped doctors speed up diagnoses for diseases such as diabetes.

Ayah, a social worker at the clinic, said she has been working for two years with children, helping parents with social and family issues. Some of the children she works with come from families with marriage problems. Other children are refugees from Iraq or Syria whom she says are “very scared” at the sound of the smallest noise.

“This boy was so attached to his parents,” she said of one child, “he would not let go.”

Ayah said she sees up to six people a day, and sessions can last up to 90 minutes, if needed. The hardest cases for the social worker involve children with autism. But she said the real need in Zerqa is for specialists trained in helping children with special needs.

“Such a thing doesn’t exist here,” she noted.

Ayah added she enjoys working with the Dominican sisters at the clinic. She has been coming to the clinic since her mother was pregnant with her. Her work at the clinic, in a certain way, allows her to pass on the care her family received to other mothers and children.

The clinic is trying to improve women’s health. According to Sister Miriam, the clinic diagnoses about five cases a month of breast cancer — a rising phenomenon in Jordan. Women come in for breast cancer screening every six months. Some of the cases were caught because the women came in for prenatal care. The clinic also provides information on natural family planning as a healthy, non-toxic way to space their children.

Because health insurance is not available for Palestinian and Syrian refugees, the clinic is subsidized by CNEWA, thanks to its generous benefactors.

The cost per visit to Mother of Mercy Clinic is three dinars ($4.20 US), but the fee is waived for the destitute who cannot pay. Sister Miriam added that it saves these families a fortune — regular clinics cost upwards of 20 dinars ($28 US).

Prescription drugs are expensive in Jordan, but the clinic is able to offer medicine to families at a discount. Again, the clinic makes sure that everyone receives medicine regardless of their ability to pay. For families who are very poor, the sisters go even further.

“We treat them for free,” Sister Miriam said. At the Mother of Mercy Clinic, the Dominican sisters and the Muslim medical professionals who work with them, have their hearts united in one aim: “We are here to serve the human being.”

To support the invaluable work of the Mother of Mercy Clinic, visit this page.

And read more about the clinic in Finding Sanctuary in Jordan and Overwhelming Mercy in ONE magazine.

3 November 2016
Peter Jesserer Smith

A 15-year-old Iraqi Christian youth taking classes at the Pontifical Mission Community Center shows off his artistry next to his mother. (photo: Peter Jesserer Smith)

Editor’s note: Journalist Peter Jesserer Smith of the National Catholic Register recently completed a visit to Jordan with other Christian writers and journalists, and saw first-hand some of the important work CNEWA’s donors are supporting.

At the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman, Jordan, a man known simply as “Mr. Sami” teaches the fundamentals of English to a class filled with young and old alike. Both the teacher, a respected man in his 60’s, and his class share a common tragedy: they are all Iraqi Christian refugees who fled ISIS.

Most, like Mr. Sami, are from Mosul or the surrounding villages on the Nineveh Plain. They aim to find a better life in Australia, the U.S. or Canada — but they feel they can never return to Iraq. Mr. Sami says they no longer want to be subject to persecution, and no longer felt safe there.

Rafid, a young man who studied medical device technology at the university, said the Iraqi government failed to protect them from ISIS or other extremists. He did not have any confidence that would change. But he also said their lives were in legal limbo until they were resettled.

“We can’t work and stay here in Jordan,” he said.

Since the Christians primarily speak Aramaic, not Arabic, Mr. Sami helps them learn English so they can manage the transition of resettlement in another country.

“I also teach the Catholic catechism, and spirituality of our religion,” he said.

The members of the Teresian Association, a lay apostolate, run the Pontifical Mission Community Center, which serves the local population, as well as the refugee Christians. The center hosts public lectures, prayer sessions, Christian formation classes, and lessons in basic English and music.

One refugee named Nichole said she was taking guitar lessons from one of the Teresians.

“I want to sing to the Lord in the Church,” she said.

Jordanian Christian and Muslim students do homework together at the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman. (photo: Peter Jesserer Smith)

The building’s basement rooms serve as a meeting place for the Christian refugees, both for socialization and prayer. Refugees support each other as they deal with the uncertainty of when their case will get processed through the United Nations refugee agency. Others try to call, but they say the answer is always the same: “Later, later, later.”

In the meantime, the Teresians sisters at the Pontifical Mission Community Center do what they can to help the Christian refugees, in addition to their mission of providing a library and community center for the local population. The center is a place where Christian and Muslim youth come to read or do homework together.

CNEWA funds the center’s work, and its mission to the community. But they need to increase their resources, so they can purchase more Arabic and English books, particularly for the Christian refugees.

“Our help is the only help for them,” Teresian Amabel Sibug said. “We’re trying to do all we can.”

Those who wish to support the Teresian Association can make a donation through CNEWA, and must specify they want their gift to support the Pontifical Mission Community Center in Amman.