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An Insight into the Greek-Orthodox Community of Jordan

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://world.greekreporter.com/2012/07/01/an-insight-into-the-greek-orthodox-community-of-jordan/ An Insight into the Greek-Orthodox Community of Jordan By
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      An Insight into the Greek-Orthodox Community of Jordan
      By Irene Archos on July 1, 2012

      The saying, “Opou geis, kai patris,” is a familiar one attesting to the
      Greek spirit of seeking out fortune and adapting to many foreign soils.
      But as evidenced by the Greek community of Madaba, Jordan, not only can
      Greeks simply exist in foreign lands, they usually prosper.

      At the heart of this community is the Orthodox Church of St. George. The
      church broke ground in 1884, when the Greek Orthodox community saved
      enough funds to start construction. But to the surprise of the builders,
      under it were the remains of a Byzantine dating back to the 3rd century.
      It was on the floor of this ancient Greek church that the earliest, most
      extant map of Palestine was found; it literally put the map on the map.
      With 157 captions (in Greek) depicting all the major biblical sites of
      the Middle East, the mosaic constructed in AD 560, was originally around
      25m long (some experts claim 15m is more accurate) and 6m wide. It once
      contained more than two million pieces but only one-third of the
      original mosaic has survived.

      Next to the church and second in importance to the community is the
      Greek Orthodox School of St. George. Headed by Father Innokentios, a
      resident of Jordan for close to 50 years, the school provides a high
      quality education to both Christian and Muslim students alike. It is
      ranked among the top ten private school establishments in Jordan and
      currently has a waiting list of 540 students, of which only one-third
      have room to be admitted. The school is part of a larger network of
      schools under the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate which boast 6,000 students
      in 13 schools, with 800 teaching staff.

      “This is the oldest Christian educational establishment in this land,
      dating back from the early days of the Ottoman Empire,” says Father
      Innokentios.

      The Orthodox community, he states, dates back to the early Christian
      period in this land and was never imported.

      While the school is considered the most prestigious in the town of
      Madaba, it was established to help the less fortunate and caters to
      low-income families as it charges a quarter of the tuition similar
      private schools in Jordan ask for. “The job of the Church is to support
      people, and this [providing education] has been by far the greatest
      contribution of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate to the local society,”
      Innokentios maintains. The school promotes “mutual respect and peaceful
      coexistence’” among youngsters of different religious communities.
      According to Mays Kawakneh, an Assistant Principal there for 11 years,
      the most distinctive feature of the school is that “it helps poor people
      regardless of religion or nationality.”

      The Patriarchate ran the only language school to learn Greek in Amman.
      However, after the collapse of the Greek economy two years ago with the
      onset of the crisis, most of the Greek teachers imported from the
      mainland were retracted leaving the facility to struggle. Independent
      efforts to sustain the teaching of Greek are currently being made by the
      Orthodox community to keep its doors open, yet it remains hard to keep
      the language and culture alive without any native teachers of Greek.
      However, St George Greek Orthodox School does provide after-school Greek
      lessons as it does advanced ESOL certificates in conjunction with its
      partnership with the British Council.

      There are approximately 500 Greeks in greater Jordan, according to the
      latest figures by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and close to 150
      families comprising of both Greek partners. Most have settled in the
      area either by way of intercultural marriage or business. The main Greek
      association is the “Association of Greek Women of Jordan,” which is
      active socially and culturally and organizes film screenings, talks, and
      events about Greece as well as celebrates traditional holidays
      Greek-style. A Parent-Teacher Association has been set up to support the
      Greek community school and promote the teaching of Greek language and
      culture to young Greeks, who are active through the “Association of
      Greek Youth of Jordan”.

      Litsa Karathanassis, a Greek professional woman married to a Jordanian,
      is an active member of the Hellenic community in Jordan. Her
      grandparents fled the Turks as refugees in Asia Minor to settle in
      Jerusalem where her parents were born to become refugees once again as a
      result of the Israeli invasion of Palestine in 1948. Born and educated
      in Jordan, she feels very strongly about her Greek roots. She states,
      “Our heritage is unique and it is up to us to keep it alive. It is our
      duty as Greeks to go beyond ‘just being Greeks’ and remind everyone how
      our ancestors have impacted the world. On the other hand, we need to
      realize that we cannot keep living in the glories of the past and we
      need to work very hard today to remain worthy of such rich heritage.”

      The Greek Orthodox faithful in Jordan are estimated at some 120,000,
      most of whom are Arabic speaking. There are currently 29 Greek Orthodox
      churches – with that number on the increase – which come under the
      Jerusalem Patriarchate.

      St George Orthodox School is always in need of volunteers to teach
      English or Greek. Teaching a year in Jordan would be ideal for a retired
      couple or a young person on his/her gap year. The job comes with
      attractive living accommodations, medical insurance, Arabic lessons, and
      spending cash. For further details, contact Father Innokentios at
      diodoros@....

      *Irene Archos is also the creator of the blog greekamericangirl.com
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