Anjara: A Place of Refuge for Both Christians and Muslims

Our Lady of the Mount Shrine Prepares to Welcome Pope Francis

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The Blessed Mother is known by many names around the world: Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Divine Providence, and many more. There is one name of Mary, known by few but revered in an area closest to the great figures of the Old and New Testament than any other: Our Lady of the Mount.

Nestled in the city of Anjara, Jordan, the Shrine was established by Fr. Yousef Salmeh Nammat, in honor of the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, Jesus and his mother Mary passed through the town and rested in a cave in the Ajloun Mountains near the parish, which is situated in the hills of Gilead, east of the Jordan Valley.

The Shrine also houses a school as well as an orphanage for local children who have either lost their parents or abandoned there due to poverty. «The youngest child we had here was 11 days old,» Fr. Hugo Alvaniz, pastor of the parish, told ZENIT. «Her mother left her here but then several months later, reappeared and the child went back to his mother.»

«I do hope she is ok,» he said with a look of genuine concern.

Fr. Alvaniz, who hails from Argentina, belongs to the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, a religious order of priests and nuns who began their work in Anjara in 2004. Anticipation is palpable in the parish as large billboard of Pope Francis and King Abdullah II of Jordan overlooks the Shrine. Children of the orphanage will be given the privilege of singing a traditional Spanish hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary when the Holy Father arrives on Saturday. Shortly after Mass, the religious Sisters of the Incarnate Word gather the children to practice before the big event.

But there is something else that unites this parish to the Blessed Mother. Enclosed in a glass case is a statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. On May 6th, 2010, a nun, three women and several school girls were cleaning the parish. As the nun began to clean the glass door, she was startled by the statue of the Blessed Mother, which began to blink Her eyes. The nun and one of the girls who witnessed the Blessed Mother’s eyes blink, screamed as tears of blood streamed down the face of the statue. Members of the parish ran to the Church after hearing the commotion and witnessed the supernatural event.

After the bishop called for an investigation into the matter, tests from a nearby hospital confirmed the tears were human blood. Shortly after, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem recognized the validity of the miraculous event.

«The Latin Patriarch of Jersusalem said, in front of 5,000 people: ‘The Virgin Mary weeps for us and with us,'» Fr. Alvaniz recalled. «Why did this happen? We don’t know. But after it happened, the Ar-rabi Al-arabi (the Arab Spring) occurred a few months later. We have missionaries in Egypt, Tunis and Iraq and they are still there.»

While acknowledging that some good has come from the revolutions, Fr. Alvani affirmed that the suffering that came along with it has been terrible for thousands of people in the Middle East. «Thank God, it is not a religious war although there are those who are trying to make it a religious one. There have been many atrocities committed against Christians but not only the Christians. We are helping many people, including Muslims who are here in the nearby refugees who came here to escape the atrocities.»

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Mountain not only serves as a place of pilgrimage and devotion, but also, as a place of refuge, of hope that continues to demonstrate faith by both words and deeds.

While surrounding countries continue to commit atrocities to one another in the name of God, the Shrine, School and Orphanage of Our Lady of the Mount is yet another example in the Kingdom of Jordan that a sign of genuine love and unity between Christians and Muslims is not only possible, but happening right now in the Middle East. It is a shining example of Pope Francis’ call to love those who are marginalized and discarded in today’s «throwaway culture.»

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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