His Majesty King Abdullah on Friday participated in a Q&A session with young friars, refugees and journalists at the Sacred Convent of St Francis of Assisi, attended by Her Majesty Queen Rania.
The session, held following a ceremony to award the 2019 Lamp of Peace award to King Abdullah, also included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a Royal Court statement said.
Responding to a question on refugees and the role of the international community in supporting host countries, His Majesty said Jordan hosts over 15 per cent of the world’s refugees.
“This has been a great challenge, but, at the same time, when we looked at refugees, how could we turn our backs on them, when mothers and children were coming to our borders, escaping violence, escaping persecution? How could we, people who have love in our hearts, turn them away?” the King said.
“It was very clear to all of us that we had to accept them into our country… not only just to accept them as refugees; they have to have a future in our country until the opportunity is ready for them to be able to go back,” His Majesty added, thanking countries like Italy and Germany for supporting Jordan.
The King said hosting refugees has caused a tremendous strain on Jordanian citizens, noting rising unemployment rates and pressure on healthcare, education and housing, according to the statement.
“The overwhelming majority of refugees, at least the ones that are in Jordan, want to go back home. And unless we empower them, unless we give them education, unless we look after them, give them opportunities; how are they going to be able to go back as positive building blocks of society?” His Majesty added.
“So when we look at Syria, we hope that we are all working together to improve the political aspects of this, but the next phase is stabilisation. Stabilisation is an opportunity for young people to go back and be a building block. It’s not going to be easy; it needs a lot of hard work,” the King said.
His Majesty praised Chancellor Merkel for setting the tone in Europe in dealing with refugees, describing her as “a model and an example for all of us in the Middle East”.
Friends like Chancellor Merkel, the King said, give Jordan strength. “We do need more help; there is donor fatigue, unfortunately. So more and more is the pressure on the Jordanian government to look after refugees,” His Majesty continued.
“But at the end of the day, we have to do the right thing. We have to do what is in our heart. And in our heart, the right thing is to look after refugees, give them a chance and include them into our society,” the King affirmed.
Answering a question on the role of interfaith diplomacy in countering extremism, His Majesty said Jordan “realised many years ago that there was going to be a challenge of extremist rhetoric that was going to plague our societies for some time to come”.
“This is why as Muslims we reached out in the ‘Amman Message’ to talk to each other, as Christianity did many hundreds of years ago,” the King said, citing also the ‘Common Word’ initiative in which Muslims reached out to Christians, the statement added.
“We realised that we were going to be in this battle for our future, our dignity, our humanity,” His Majesty underscored.
“The long term challenge that all of us have is the ideological battle,” the King said, pointing to the spread of extremism around the world.
“This is a challenge that you, as the younger generation, unfortunately, have inherited. But we need to give you the enablers to be able to overcome these issues,” His Majesty added, addressing the young attendees.
The King said part of the problem is how some groups have been utilising means such as social media to spread hatred, citing as an example the recent massacre that targeted Muslim worshippers in New Zealand.
“What binds all of us together is to love thy God and love thy neighbour. But do we actually believe that? Too many people talk about [how] ‘we tolerate each other’; shouldn’t we respect and love each other? If we truly have God in our heart, then we will overcome these challenges,” His Majesty said.
“There’s nothing probably stronger than this old saying, that for evil to succeed, is for good men and women to do nothing. Can we as a majority of people be able to stand up and count on each other when something is wrong? To be able to come together and look at the glass half full, to bring love into our hearts — that is going to be the challenge,” the King added.
People around the world must stand united in the face of evil groups; “otherwise, this is a long-term challenge that will be there for generations to come,” His Majesty said.
In remarks at the beginning of the Q&A session, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte welcomed Their Majesties, expressing his appreciation for Jordan’s efforts in hosting Syrian refugees despite the social and economic strain it puts on Jordan.
Prime Minister Conte noted that Jordan, led by His Majesty, is a shining example of harmony, with the King’s commitment to promoting peace and stability.
He added that Jordan is a worthy example to follow for its humanitarian positions, thanking the Jordanian people for their solidarity with others and for their strength and determination, and describing the King as an inspiring leader.
He added that Italy is committed to supporting Jordan, especially its healthcare and education sectors, describing the Kingdom as a strategic partner for Italy in the region, and a partner in promoting peace and countering extremism.
During the session, Chancellor Angela Merkel underscored the importance of supporting refugee host countries, such as Jordan, adding that all should work towards stability and prosperity in countries that have witnessed conflict, so that refugees may have a chance at returning home.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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