Amman – A few blocks from Amman’s cosmopolitan Rainbow Street, the banquet hall of St Joseph Catholic Church swells with the sounds of families. But instead of a holiday party or wedding reception, the space is a makeshift home to 72 Iraqi Christian refugees who have lived together for the past year after fleeing violence from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Fourteen different churches across Jordan opened their doors in August 2014 to roughly 1,000 Christian Iraqis, the majority from Mosul and Qaraqosh in the north. After one year, most are still in these improvised living quarters. Their rooms are typically divided by particle board, while Caritas, an international Catholic charity, helps to care for them.
King Abdullah II extended an invitation last year to Christian refugees from Iraq as their numbers multiplied. Father Nour al-Qusmusa, an Iraqi Catholic priest living in Amman, has acted as an intermediary between the refugees, the Jordanian government, local host churches and Caritas.
Like the rest of the approximately 30,000 Iraqi refugees making Jordan an indefinite home, those sheltered in the churches cannot formally work. Their days are filled with chores, cooking and waiting. Many hope to relocate to Western countries to join relatives.
The Vatican recently announced a pledge of financial support to help individual families still living in the churches to secure an apartment and pay for 12 months of rent upfront.