AL QUWEIRA, Jordan -- In the desert city of Al Quweira, Jordan, Marines and sailors are making their best effort to maintain and renew regional cooperation with their Jordanian military counterparts through challenging training and in one particular case, through a spiritual gathering.
“The commanding officer asked me to arrange an event to help us learn firsthand about Jordanian heritage and culture,” Lt. Cmdr. Troy Todd, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit chaplain from North Carolina. He reached out to the U.S. Central Command chaplain, who practices Islam and knew who to contact in the area to arrange this type of gathering.
The guests of honor were Jordanian Armed Forces Col. Jamel Al Sbool, imam for the Jordanian Armed Forces in the southern region and Very Reverend Nabil Haddad, founder of an interfaith tolerance organization in Jordan.
“There were six Navy chaplains there,” Todd said. “So, we not only learned about them, but they learned about us as well.”
All involved agreed the event was successful at breaking down barriers between the two cultures. Through discussion and breaking bread, the Marines and sailors were able to gain new knowledge of the Arab culture.
“We had traditional Jordanian food in a bedouin tent, which helps us understand their tradition and culture,” said Todd. “Around the table, we sit as friends.”
Sgt. Steven Owen, a 26th MEU motor transport mechanic from Overland Park, Kan., felt particularly grateful for the experience, both because seats for the event were limited and because he is planning on starting his study in theology upon the MEU’s return to the United States after deployment.
“It was great because I had never met an Arab Christian before,” Owen said of Haddad. “That was cool hearing about his experiences as a minority in such a Muslim part of the world.”
Haddad explained that although Christianity is only four percent of Jordan’s religious population, the country’s people are very tolerant and accepting of people who practice other religions. He said Jordan’s acceptance is a great example for the rest of the world.
Al Sbool echoed those comments as a Muslim, agreeing all people should be able to live in peace no matter their religion.
The meeting reaffirmed both peoples’ want for peace. The imam shared that he prays nightly for the world to live in peace, and he hopes to see it before his time in the world comes to an end.