Archbishop Continues Holy Land Visit
While clergy from the United Dioceses of Dublin & Glendalough were on their way home from Jordan where they participated in a joint retreat with clergy of our partner Diocese of Jerusalem, Archbishop Michael Jackson continued to visit diocesan institutions and parishes in the country. Here he reflects on his visit on Friday and Saturday, March 3 and 4.
FRIDAY MARCH 3RD
Salt is a Biblical city south of Amman, in the Jordan Valley, now with a population of half a million people. Friday is a good day to travel in Jordan as it is a day that many people have a holiday from work in the week. It facilitates Muslim devotions on a solemn day of prayer. We must remember that there is no secular or religious Sunday in the Middle East, as there is in Ireland. The Holy Land Institute for Deaf and Deafblind Children situated in Salt has been serving those in need of special education since 1964. It is the only such residential facility in the whole of Jordan. It is a self–consciously Christian institution of altruistic service as those who use it now are overwhelmingly Muslim.
Its current chaplain, The Reverend Jamil Khadir, welcomed us and introduced us to the philosophy and the practicality of The Institute. Its essence is to give dignity to those who are deaf and deafblind by engaging with them educationally in providing them with the means towards life skills and professional training in a wide range of vocational areas in a safe environment. Many of the teachers are former pupils. In this way, they can share a very particular empathy with generations of their successors. The outreach of The Institute extends to two big Syrian Refugee Camps, to specialist training in Baghdad over the past three years and to going to homes in the local area to offer pre–school services and services to families who have missed out. The capacity of parents to converse with their children has increased from 10% to 70% by this means.
The Institute offers education from KG1 to Grade 12. You could only marvel at the graciousness and the goodness of the place and its tangible ethic of love. You will understand that I offer no photographs of any residents in order to comply with and not to breach GDPR.
On the evening of Friday, I went to St Luke’s Church Marka, a suburb of East Amman, for a church concert. The church, set in a strongly Christian area, was full and people of every generation participated in a musical evening which focused on Lenten themes. As other members of the party from Dublin and Glendalough were flying home, I was given the opportunity to tell the congregation who we were, why we were with them and how we had studied together with their clergy the Scripture 1 Peter in which Christians are referred to as living stones. I thanked the Christians of The Holy Land for being those living stones today and for inspiring faith and witness worldwide, as they themselves rejoice to believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the midst of unimaginable difficulties. The evening finished with a generous parish dinner.
SATURDAY MARCH 4TH
I was invited to spend the day in The Theodor Schneller School just outside Amman. Its Director is The Reverend Dr Khalid Freij. He is ably assisted by his wife in strategic planning for The School. Founded in Jerusalem, in 1860, The Schneller School was re–established in Jordan after it closed in Jerusalem in 1948, its premises being taken over by the Israeli army. There is a second Schneller School in Beirut, Lebanon. It responds to the educational needs of Syrian refugee children who live just over the perimeter wall and also to the needs of orphans and children who are victims of conflicts that have devastated their families. In a new family setting, they receive rehabilitation socially and psychologically along with being equipped for life through vocational school programmes. These comprise not only the components of the national school programme from KG1 to Grade 10 but also English, Computing and German. Mathematics and Science are taught in English. The Schneller School has been consistently dear to the heart of Archbishop Suheil and now to that of Archbishop Naoum. Again it is unique in Jordan. There is a fine school chapel which is used by all students. In the spirit of generous Anglicanism, it does not discriminate on grounds of race, gender or religion.
Not only is there now a fully functioning solar energy system but there is a complete overhaul of the water supply system. There is a new all–weather football pitch to FIFA standards and a new modern gymnasium. Regarding the specifically academic part of the School, it is the conviction of The Director that everybody has academic potential. The School has widened its intake to include up to twenty students with learning disabilities. They receive further individual tuition in Mathematics and English in the first instance. Vocational training, some with Higher Certification, is offered in Carpentry, Mechanical Engineering including the repair of hybrid and electrical cars, Hotel Management and Cosmetics. 90% of graduates find work after qualification. Next year, Grades 11 and 12 will be added to the curriculum.
My impression of the School is that it has a vision and a sense of purpose. Music, art and drama play a key role in developing self–expression and self–confidence. The psychological and personal wellbeing of the pupils is paramount along with a sense of security which creates an environment in which everyone gains satisfaction and fulfilment in learning and preparing for life in a challenged and disadvantaged locality.
Both The Holy Land Institute for Deaf and Deafblind Children and The Theodor Schneller School are open to funding and support by individuals, parishes and the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. Diocesan Safeguarding is in place as are all relevant financial regulations. There is scope for new projects at every level of school life.