Days of Hope in Amman

compiled by CNEWA staff
photographs by Miriam Sushman

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For more than 40 years, CNEWA, through its operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine (PMP), has supported humanitarian and pastoral endeavors in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

A list of the programs initiated and maintained there – the mother and child clinic in Zerqa, the Italian Hospital in Amman, the Pontifical Mission Library, water projects in Smakieh and Bakoura, not to mention the thousands of children supported through the Needy Child Sponsorship Program – fails to define the depth and impact of the work of PMP – CNEWA. One aspect of its work in Jordan, however, is singular to that office alone – a social service program every Wednesday that reaches out to Amman’s poor.

“I saw a sign on Jabal Hussein that said ‘Pontifical Mission for Palestine,’” writes Marian Nimry, a friend of Hiam Mansour, the Project Coordinator of the PMP – CNEWA Amman office, “and I knew I had reached the right place. For some time I had been curious about the nature of the work of this agency of the Holy See. As I carefully made my way downstairs I saw a queue of people; each person held a sheet of numbered paper, waiting patiently for his or her number to be called.

“Hiam, who is responsible for the program, called number 11 and three people, two gentlemen and a girl of about 10 years of age, answered. One of the men lifted the child into his arms and carried her to Hiam’s office.

“‘We’re Iraqi,’ the other man began in a hesitant manner, ‘but my friend, the father of Nour, speaks only Assyrian.’

“Nour, we were told, had lost all ability to use her legs as a result of a botched back operation, which was considered a minor procedure. Nour’s doctors in Iraq stated that she would never be able to walk again.

“After joining the thousands of Iraqi refugees flooding the Kingdom of Jordan, however, they learned that perhaps Nour could regain the use of her legs.

“‘Her father has no money to spare for such an operation,’ explained the interpreter, he works as a laborer and makes barely enough to feed and shelter his family. It must be added that Iraqi refugees may not work in Jordan legally; what money they earn is not reported and is done for cash.”

“I watched Nour as her father spoke in the ancient Assyrian tongue, akin to the Aramaic spoken by Jesus in first-century Palestine. She sat on her father’s lap, calmly observing her surroundings with her big black eyes, her feeble legs dangling freely.

“Hiam offered PMP’s assistance in the form of limited financial assistance in the form of cash payments to the Italian Hospital, a facility operated by the Comboni Missionary Sisters, where the operation would take place.

“While this piece of good news was translated from Arabic to Assyrian, the eyes of Nour’s father lit with joy in the promise that his daughter would one day walk again.”

“A pregnant woman in her ninth month who could not afford the cost of delivering her baby, a diabetic woman in dire need of treatment, and a paralyzed man who desperately needed a wheelchair were only a few of the many cases that were assessed and assisted by the Pontifical Mission on that Wednesday last summer.

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