Without explanation, the Jordanian government unexpectedly jailed and deported an American pastor who had lived in the country for 16 years. Jody Miller, pastor of Grace Church in Amman, was deported to the United States on Nov. 6. His wife remains in Jordan. He is bringing an appeal to the Jordanian Royal Court.
Miller was called in to the GID, Jordan’s General Intelligence Department, for what he believed to be an interview with security officials on Nov. 4. According to his account, the interview never took place. After he sat waiting for several hours, officials unexpectedly entered the room, and handcuffed and blindfolded him, taking him to a jail cell. Two days later, he was forced to pay for his own deportation from Jordan.
His assistant pastor, an Egyptian Christian named Maged, was reportedly also detained and, on Nov. 15 or 16, was sent overland to Aqaba, on the northeastern tip of the Red Sea. From there he would have been deported to Egypt by ship.
Grace Church has been involved in refugee relief since 1995, but its efforts have increased since the Syrian civil war that began in 2011 caused thousands to flee to Jordan. The church has provided humanitarian aid for the flood of Iraqi and Syrian refugees fleeing the Islamic State. Approximately 620,000 Syrian refugees and 30,000 Iraqis currently reside in Jordan.
King Abdullah II of Jordan, who has made the continued presence of non-Muslim religions in the Middle East a talking point in recent years, has also welcomed fleeing Iraqi Christians. Thousands fled Mosul in July when the Sunni militant group gave them the choice of conversion, paying a tax, or death. Miller said his church spent more than $100,000 in aid last year for refugees, giving them food, blankets and mattresses. The church also provides ongoing assistance for 150 families each month.
“Their campaign is clearly seeking to close the church,” Miller told World Watch Monitor. He believes that his work among Christians and Muslims alike, whoever is in need, has increased the anger of some government officials. Over one-quarter of those in attendance at Sunday services are Muslims. Though no Jordanian law prohibits evangelicals from practicing their faith, traditional interpretations of Islam prohibit apostasy, or leaving the faith. “I wasn’t the most popular person for many years, but with the current [ISIS] crisis, maybe they felt bolder in making this move,” Miller said. He believes that they plan to continue to arrest and deport members of Grace Church until it shuts down.
GID officials appear to have set up the pastor for deportation. In September, two intelligence officers came to Grace Church ostensibly to offer their protection from fundamentalist Muslims. On the way out, one of the officers asked if he could take an Arabic Bible. On Oct. 23, Miller received a call from the U.S. Embassy, informing him that the Jordanian Intelligence Department had filed a complaint against him for distributing Bibles and threatening the Islamic country’s “national unity.” Shortly thereafter, he was called in for his meeting, handcuffed and led to a jail cell.
A church leader who spoke with World Watch Monitor presented an alternate theory that the government deported Miller in a clumsy attempt to protect him. Jordan’s security apparatus has cracked down on its homegrown militants and radical Islamists. Located in downtown Amman, Grace Church is well known to any would-be terrorists. “Their desire is to protect him, but they could have done it in a much better fashion,” he said.
Whatever the GID’s motivations, Jordan’s government, long hailed as a model for tolerance in the Middle East, has faced pressure from three sources during the last year—the strain of hosting a million Iraqi and Syrian refugees, turmoil in surrounding nations caused by ISIS, and radical Islam within the nation. Approximately 2,000 Jordanians have fought in Syria for Islamic militant groups, according to the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization. In June, King Abdullah amended a tough anti-terror law to criminalize open activity or recruitment for ISIS. Under the provisions of the amendment, dissidents and Islamists alike have been arrested without charges.
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we lift up Your work through Ammon’s Grace Church. You have used it to sustain the many refugees from Syria and Iraq with food, mattresses and blankets. Through their work, You have given hope to many who were weary, afraid and without hope. You have used this church to bring the gospel of Christ to many, including Muslims, who had never heard the truth from Your Word. We pray now for them and for the refugees they serve; that the work might continue and bear lasting fruit. You are an infinite source of wisdom, and Your Spirit lives in us to grant faith, longsuffering and joy in the midst of severe trials. We pray that You would pour out these gifts of Your Spirit in abundance upon Pastor Miller and his wife, and upon Maged and the people of Grace Church. We pray that in the midst of Satan’s attack on this work, that Your power and presence would be evident to all and that the name of Christ would be lifted high. In the name of Jesus, who reigns victorious over His Church and over all the kingdoms of this world, Amen.