Jesus, his mother, and his disciples once passed through the ancient town of Anjara, located in Jordan in the hills east of the Jordan River Valley, and rested there in a cave, where now stands the Church of Our Lady of the Mount, a site of Christian pilgrimage and an example of community between Christians and Muslims in the area.
The pastor, Father Hugo Fabian, 46, is Argentinian but has lived in the Middle East for 18 years, including in Egypt and Syria. He is fluent in Arabic and has studied Islam. A priest of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word (IVE), he has worked in Anjara for the past decade.
“Thank God we are able to help many families in Anjara because so many of them need help,” Father Fabian said.
Anjara, population 20,000, is a particularly poor town, even for the poor country of Jordan. The parish’s weekly collection is about $50. The church and its school and mission are largely supported by Arab Christians in the United States and by donations from pilgrims who visit the shrine. And the parish has much to support.
There are about 220 students at the school, about half are Christian and half are Muslim. As part of the comprehensive curriculum, classes in Islam are taught to the Muslim students and catechism is taught to the Christian students. All are taught religious tolerance.
Of the king of Jordan, Abdullah II, Father Fabian said, “Thank God we have this open-minded man,” who promotes religious acceptance of the minority Christian population in this predominantly Muslim country.
The parish also runs a mission that takes in children of all ages and religions, who are in need of refuge for a variety of reasons including poverty and problems at home, providing them with food, clothing, shelter, and education. The mission regularly has about 30 kids in its care. Additionally, the church ministers to prisoners and prostitutes. And it wants to do more, including housing and other support for Syrian refugees.
In this place that is a sign that love and unity is possible among all people, a miracle occurred. On May 6, 2010, the statue of Our Lady of the Mount wept tears of human blood. Many believe the tears showed her sorrowful solidarity with the poor of Anjara. "The Virgin Mary cries with us and for us,” Father Fabian said.
There are 250 families in the parish, served by three priests and seven sisters, who belong to the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, founded in Argentina in 1984. The order has missionaries all over the world and began working in Jordan in 2004.