Jordanian Arabs (population est. 8 million) include both Jordanians as well as Palestinians who fled to Jordan after the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967. The majority of Jordanian Arabs are Sunni Muslim (97%), but there are Arab Christians in Jordan, too (approx. 2%). They are Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Protestant (0.2% Evangelical). Muslims and Christians work together and live in the same neighborhoods.
The majority of Jordanian Arabs live in modern, urban areas such as the capital, Amman. Some live in towns, and others live in rural Bedouin villages. While Modern Standard Arabic is used in writing, Jordanian Arabs speak a variety of local dialects of Levantine Arabic in daily life and easily understand each other.
Jordanian Arabs are kind and friendly, ready to help anyone in need. Hospitality is central to Jordanian culture, with ever-present cups of coffee and tea offered to friends and strangers alike. Guests feast on the best a family has to offer.
Jordan’s Prime Minister has admitted they live in a “tough neighborhood.” Bordered by Syria, Israel, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia and buffeted by the upheavals facing those neighbors, Jordan plays a unique role on the world stage.
Because of their deep expressions of hospitality, Jordanians have received wave after wave of refugees from neighboring countries for decades. This has come at a great cost: rents have skyrocketed, jobs are scarce, and development money initially earmarked for Jordanians now flows to Syrian refugees. Jordan hosts at least 1.3 million Syrian refugees, at a cost of $2.4 billion per year.
Another reason jobs are scarce is the lack of natural resources in Jordan. Many move to oil-rich countries in the Gulf looking for employment. Tourism is important to Jordan’s economy, bringing in nearly $800 million in August 2019 alone. Of all the people working in Jordan, roughly half are employed by the government.
Access to fresh water supplies is also a major issue. Throughout the region, water may very well become more valuable than oil.
Some say that Islamic State has been the best thing that happened for the cause of Christ in Jordan. A tipping point was when a captured Jordanian pilot was burned alive in a cage by ISIS in 2015. People are questioning the foundations of their faith, even the very nature of Islam itself and the character of Muhammad. Muslim-on-Muslim violence is seen as repugnant. While this leads some to atheism, it draws others to Jesus.
Jordanian Christians are an oppressed minority. They are provided religious freedom as long as their activities remain within the walls of their churches and institutions. The government is happy for Christians to reach out to Syrian refugees – which they are bold in doing – but ministry among poor Jordanian Muslims would be dangerous for Christians. Conversion to Christianity from Islam is costly; new believers risk losing their reputation, employment, and even their family (including their children).
Many resources are available in Modern Standard Arabic, including the Bible and the JESUS Film; some resources are available in Levantine dialects, but more need to be developed. Internet and broadcast ministries are fruitful means of evangelism and follow up. The Jordanian Evangelical Theological Seminary, located in Amman, prepares God’s people for work throughout North Africa and the Middle East.