Bishop Shomali:’The Hashemite custodianship of sanctities safeguards the rights of Arabs, Muslims’.
Bishop Shomali pleaded with God to protect His Majesty the King who serves as the fatter and the leader of the homeland so that Jordan would remain a safe haven to its people in the first place and the forcibly displaced people as well.
Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour has interviewed former Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan Bishop William Shomali who still serves as president of American University of Madaba Board of Trustees and is a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
On his impressions regarding working for several years in Jordan, he said that on its centenary Jordan proves to be a country of institutions enjoying social peace and tranquility which is attributed to the Hashemite wisdom and the awareness of the Jordanian people, without which economic stability, scientific progress, and well-being cannot be achieved.
Lauding the prevailing brotherhood between Muslims and Christians as well as the freedom that citizens enjoy in practising their religious rites, he said that the common living will always remains a glaring privilege that Jordan is proud of as the beauty of mosaic comes from the diversity of the colors of its stones. Difference does not mean disagreement, but can mean integration, and we live together with the wisdom of the Hashemites, who since the beginning of the Jordanian state have been respecting the Christians living on this land and their rights to experience their faith and practise their rites. This is clearly felt in the positions of His Majesty King Abdullah II who annually invites the patriarchs and bishops to the Royal palace to offer Christmas well wishes, while we in our turn convey a message of his love for all the children of our Churches.
He added that among the manifestations of this partnership are the Christian and Islamic feasts where Christmas is a national holiday marked by all Jordanians just as the case with Islamic feasts. Institutions close their doors and people exchange well wishes. He stressed that it is has always been a source of joy when a prime minister visits us on Christmas and Easter celebrations along with several ministers, including the minister of awqaf, to convey to us the well wishes of the government and the Jordanian people. Furthermore, Muslims invite Christians to their iftar banquets while Christians reciprocate this invitation in an atmosphere of affection. He continued that lighting the Christmas tree in various governorates has become a religious and national occasion that people celebrate with joy. Muslim and Christian students study together in our schools, grow up together, and attend universities together in an atmosphere of brotherhood.
On the situation in Jerusalem and the importance of the Hashemite custodianship of His Majesty King Abdullah of the Islamic and Christian holy sites, Bishop Shomali said that the situation in Jerusalem and the Holy Land is volatile which is represented in the expansion of settlements, the frequent storming the Aqsa Mosque, and a sharp drop in the arrival of tourism which is a major source of income for the people of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Hebron, and others. He continued that at the time when several Arab countries moved to recognize Israel and strengthen mutual relations at the expense of supporting the Palestinian cause, Jordan remained a strong supporter in the face of attempts to Judaize Jerusalem and turn the Palestinian cause into a secondary issue that does not concern all Arabs. He added that His Majesty King Abdullah II is appreciated in the international arena, and the name of the Hashemites has been associated with Jerusalem and its sanctities. Furthermore, the Hashemite custodianship of sanctities is a guarantee, protection, and care that safeguards the rights of Arabs and Muslims, especially in Al-Aqsa Mosque.
On whether the religious media is capable of instilling harmony and eliminating violence, Bishop Shomali said undoubtedly religious media in Jordan and the Arab countries are influential because people adhere to the principles of religion, and this influence goes in two directions namely either by sowing the seeds of harmony and love on the one hand or by entrenching intolerance and hate speech. Clergymen still have the duty of consolidating the principles of brotherhood and accepting the other different people. He lamented over the fact that the social media abounds with slander, insults, and curses that are offensive to the others which sometimes include blasphemous comments. It is the duty of clerics in the Arab world, and not just state agencies, to urge for the rejection of exclusionary thoughts as well as to encourage acceptance and respect for the others.
Answering a question on the American University of Madaba (AUM) in his capacity as on the president of the board of trustees, he said that over 1,500 students of 26 nationalities are currently enrolled in the AUM which includes seven faculties that include 20 disciplinary specializations. He added that the university is about to obtain full American accreditation called NECHE with students as well as it is accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and the US state of New Hampshire.
Bishop Shomali also pleaded with God to protect His Majesty the King who serves as the fatter and the leader of the homeland so that Jordan would remain a safe haven to its people in the first place and the forcibly displaced people as well. He also hoped that the Churches in Jordan would continue to be a source of enlightenment in goodness as well as in spreading the message of brotherhood together with the spiritual and humanitarian values.
On his Christmas message, he said that it is the same good news that the angels preached to the shepherds of Bethlehem, namely “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace“. He also called for the intensification of prayers for peace in the world and for its recovery from the scourge of epidemic, wars, terrorism, forcible displacement and fanaticism. He also called for the attainment of the peace of heart and mind.