16 October 2017
A shepherd leads his flock down a street between the Christian villages surrounding the city of Kerak in southern Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
Dale Gavlak visited villages in Jordan for the current edition of ONE, and here offers some further impressions of a people working to preserve an ancient way of life.
I first met The Rev. Boulos Baqa’in in the CNEWA office in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
Dressed in his black clerical shirt and white collar, the immense energy Father Boulos exudes is directed into confronting the crisis in his rural home area of Karak, south of the capital. Youth are leaving in droves due to little or no employment opportunities.
The area is the historical heartland of Jordan’s Christian Bedouin tribes, boasting the country’s last two remaining entirely Christian villages of Smakieh and Hmoud. But with the flight of youth to Amman or further afield to the Arab Gulf and their parents aging, there is serious concern for the future of the area’s Christian heritage.
These villages have also supplied the bulk of Latin and Melkite Catholic priests, as well as Orthodox priests and religious for Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
That’s why Father Boulos is meeting with Ra’ed Bahou, CNEWA’s regional director for Jordan, who is encouraging him to enter uncharted territory.
Father Boulas leads the liturgy at the Greek Melkite Church in Ader, in Jordan. (photo: Nader Daoud)
They’ve devised a plan to set up a powerful Internet connection between the CNEWA community center in Amman and one initially established at the Ader Greek Melkite Church to provide long-distance training of practical skills, such as IT by professionals.
Relevant teaching on pertinent health, education and cultural issues will also be provided to the villagers in a bid to educate the youth and older people alike. The hope is that the venture might also encourage telecommuting job opportunities with new found IT and other skills.
“It’s time for this project to move ahead,” Mr. Bahou says. This is how we will open these villages to the outside world. We need these villages to survive and these people to cope with what is going on.”
“Fresh ideas and thinking are wonderful for the old. We also hope to make skills for the youth and allow job prospects to take root in the villages,” Father Boulos says.
Father Boulos and his wife have their own bittersweet experience of the problem endured by many of the older residents in Kerak and the surrounding villages.
“In my family, I have two engineers and an economist,” he says. “These children are professional people, having gone to university, and are now working in Amman. My situation reflects that of the families in these villages. This is our problem now.”