JORDAN – After seven years as chaplain of the parish of Mafraq, north of Jordan, Father Francis tells us of his apostolate to Syrian refugees. Five years ago, and thanks to the Latin Patriarchate and its generous partners, he launched a school support program and various activities for this particularly disadvantaged population.
Can you tell us about the town of Mafraq and the context of your former parish?
The town of Mafraq is located 15 kilometers from the Zaatari camp in northern Jordan. It is heavily marked by immigration, following the Syrian conflict. Today, 90,000 Syrians live in Mafraq and more than 81,000 are living in Zaatari. It’s no longer possible to go to Zaatari as I have done several times, the Church has an apostolate to this Syrian population living in Mafraq, often it’s refugees with special permits to live in the city.
What mission does the Church have for this population?
Five years ago, however, we launched an apostolate to this population with the help of Caritas, a social arm of the Church. This was first achieved through providing school support for Syrian children, in the afternoon. Some thirty students from the parish have joined the project, offering Math, Arabic and Science courses. Each year, from October to June, we received an average of 300 children aged 6 to 14, in the afternoon, all Muslims. Various activities were added to this: sport, visits in the families … To carry this project, our support was the Blessed Sacrament. Every week we organized adoration.
What do you remember about the apostolate?
You cannot imagine how much good the young the students have received from their volunteering. It is a real concrete experience that speaks of the universality of the Church. The relations between Christians and Muslims in Mafraq are, on the whole, very good and one can say that relations of friendships have been established. For example, some Muslims warned me when they noticed an unusual movement in the church. It happened regularly that some also came to visit me. Voluntarily, I kept the door of the church open all the time. I believe that the true face of the Church is not afraid of anything. The apostolate of the Church is not just for Christians. That is our strength.
Interview conducted by Claire Guigou