Report from Jordan, Day #4: Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour tells me, “We are proud that Jesus came here.” Preparing for the Pope’s visit, the PM urges all Christians to visit Jordan.

Meeting with Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour.

Meeting with Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour.

(Amman, Jordan) — As he and his team prepare for the arrival of Pope Francis to Jordan later this month, the Prime Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom, a Muslim man governing a predominantly Muslim Arab nation, has a message for all Christians, be they Catholic or Protestant: Come and walk where Jesus walked.

“We are part of the Holy Land,” Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour told me during a thirty minute meeting at his office in Amman on Sunday.

“Moses came here and died here,” he noted, as did many prophets, including Elijah. And we are very proud that Jesus came here and was baptized here,” he added.

Ensour noted that “there are very few places where you can be sure the feet of Christ tread on them.” But Jordan is one of them, he said. He pointed specifically to the Baptism Site located along the east bank of the Jordan River, which he described as of the “utmost importance.”

“There you find exactly half an acre where we know Jesus came, where John the Baptist lived,” he told me.

“In the north you will find first churches in the world,” the Prime Minister added. “We are very proud of this.”

“Christians were persecuted” by the Romans on the west bank of the Jordan River in the first century, “and they were oppressed,” he noted. “So Christianity fled from there to here.”

During our meeting, we discussed several pressing issues, from the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the crisis in Syria to the scarcity of Jordan’s economic and natural resources to Jordan’s aggressive efforts to fight terrorism and maintain calm and stability. In that context, we also discussed King Abdullah II’s efforts to make Jordan a model of moderation and peace.

For me, as an evangelical Christian, it was particularly interesting to see how important the Prime Minister feels about the Biblical history of Jordan, and about the His Majesty’s initiative to reach out to the Christian community around the world and make them feel welcome and at home in the Hashemite Kingdom.

It should be noted that this will be the fourth Pope to visit Jordan in fifty years, and the third to visit since King Abdullah took the throne in 1999. Like several senior officials I have met with in recent days, including the Foreign Minister and the Tourism Minister, the Prime Minister hopes the Papal visit will encourage many more Catholics to come visit Jordan. But he also wants many more Protestants and evangelicals to come, too.

“We are moderates,” he told me. “We don’t hate Jews or Israelis. We can live in peace together….And we are open to Christians. We need your efforts.”

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