Remapping the Holy Land from the margins: How a Jordanian Evangelical church juggles the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ in the Syrian refugee response

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mafraq, a Jordanian border town, has been profoundly reshaped by the influx of Syrian refugees since 2011. As aid agencies were initially absent from the humanitarian response, the gap was filled by faith-based organisations. In an academic and policy environment narrowly focused on security issues, Islamic charities have received considerable attention. However, little is known about the activities of Evangelical groups, let alone Arab Evangelicals, and how giving aid becomes embedded in wider religiopolitical projects. This article explores how the Mafraq Unity Church, an indigenous Evangelical congregation, balances its religious identity with an increasingly professionalised NGO ‘business’. Drawing on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in 2016/17, I argue that through tapping into resources from secular and non-secular transnational networks, the church appeals to two ‘international communities’: the aid industry and Evangelical communities worldwide. The church's rootedness in northern Jordan speaks to the humanitarian sector's recent ‘localization of aid’ agenda, while its benevolent activities are also framed as part of worldwide Evangelism. This allows Jordanian church officials to rhetorically shift Evangelism's centre of gravity to the Global South and move Mafraq closer to the demographic and historical centre of Christianity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-109
JournalContemporary Levant
Volume3
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2018

Keywords

  • Evangelical
  • faith-based humanitarianism
  • localisation
  • Syrian refugees
  • Jordan
  • marginality

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