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Priest in Jordan Ministering to Refugees Is ‘Living With Saints’

Father Khalil Jaar speaks with Iraqi Christian refugees at his church near Amman, Jordan. (photo: CNS/Father Khalil Jaar) 

11 Jun 2015 – By Dale Gavlak

MARKA, Jordan (CNS) — Hearing a beloved voice, a little boy hurriedly hobbled down the pale stone steps of the church hall to greet the priest with a tender hug.

Father Khalil Jaar chuckled when he saw the sandy-haired child, Misho, playing dress-up by wearing one of his mother’s brown high-heeled boots on his right foot while sporting his father’s black plastic sandal on the other.

Misho and his parents are among the 600 Iraqi and Syrian refugee families Father Jaar has been serving with the love of Christ and practical help such as food, housing and educational assistance in this eastern suburb of Amman, the Jordanian capital, where those fleeing conflict in neighboring lands have found shelter.

For Father Jaar, the daily experience of his church hosting a dozen Iraqi Christian families — about 60 people — who fled Islamic State attacks last August, has deeply affected his own spiritual journey.

This Arab priest finds his own life has been forever changed by aiding the refugees.

“They have become my family,” he said. “I am living with saints. They left everything for the Lord,” he said of the Iraqi Christians who were forced out of their ancestral homelands of the past 16 centuries by Islamic State brutality and now shelter in his parish, Our Lady Mother of the Church.

“I am so happy. We are like a real family,” said the soft-spoken, energetic diocesan priest, who himself experienced early life as a Palestinian refugee.

Father Jaar recounted a recent visit by his bishop from Jerusalem to illustrate his point.

“The bishop looked at my office and told me, ‘This is strange. There are no pictures of saints on the walls,’“ he told Catholic News Service.

Father Jaar told him, “I have a picture of my mother who died last year.”

“Yes, but you need …,” the bishop started to say, until the priest interjected.

“No, I don’t need pictures because I am living with saints,” he responded.

“These people left everything in the world — houses, cars, factories, money — just to remain Christian. What do you call these kinds of people? Saints. So I don’t need images as long as I am living with such people,” Father Jaar said.

“I tell them: Thank you for what you have given to me.”

Sharing meals together, starting an informal school for the refugees and seeing them take up income-generating projects has transformed the priest’s life and challenged his own spiritual walk.

“As a priest, I live like an aristocratic. My food is ready, my house is clean. If I need something, I go to my bishop or church. These people almost have nothing and they are always happy,” he said.

“They gave me a very basic lesson to feel and to live with the other. And to always say, ‘Thank you, God!’ They are better than so many people that have so much more.”

Recognizing the priest’s work, Pope Francis commissioned him to travel in the spring to Colombia, Mexico and San Diego to share stories of the plight of Christians caught in the crosshairs of Mideast conflicts and Islamist extremists with a call to stand beside them and provide help in their hour of need.

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Tags: Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees Priests