A recent Utah trade mission took a group of business and community leaders to the Kingdom of Jordan. Aside from the geography of Moab, a Dead Sea, the Jordan River and Mount Nebo, one might reasonably wonder what a predominantly Mormon state has in common with a predominantly Muslim kingdom. To find the answer, look beyond biblical geography into the biblical human traits of caring and compassion.
The genesis of the trade mission was a visit to Utah from Dina Kawar, the Jordanian ambassador to the U.S., to share her country’s economic and political environment. The graceful and soft-spoken nature of the ambassador might easily and incorrectly be misinterpreted as timidity. In reality, Kawar has spent a lifetime fighting stereotypes at home and abroad. As one of the first women in the Jordanian Foreign Service and the first Arab woman to preside over the United Nations Security Council, her experience is matched only by her expertise.
That experience and expertise, coupled with the resolve evident during the ambassador’s visit to Utah, will be essential to overcoming the challenges of bringing economic prosperity to Jordan and stability to the Middle East, while at the same time coping with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing a civil war in Syria and economic disorder in Egypt. To bring this closer to home, the nearly 1 million refugees in Jordan among its population of 9.7 million is the equivalent of bringing 300,000 refugees to Utah. Or consider bringing 33 million refugees to the U.S. and recall the recent political uproar at the suggestion of allowing just 10,000.
In Jordan, dealing with a 10 percent increase in population begins with compassion, but it does not end there. Immediate needs include shelter, food and water, along with longer-term challenges of education, social services and transportation. There is also an impact for existing Jordanians in the areas of strained public services, reduced housing availability and limited job opportunities. To deal with these needs, the Jordanian government has established a three-year response plan to ensure that humanitarian efforts are integrated and advanced. This plan is the resulting work of 300 professionals, 90 institutions and 12 task forces.
The people of Jordan are no strangers to challenges, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the west, a Syrian civil war to the north, instability in Iraq to the east and recent political disruption in Saudi Arabia to the south. Jordan has been at the crossroads of conflict for millennia. This history has created a culture of resilience and an undeterred desire for stability. This resilience was evident to the Utah delegation while in Jordan, from the government ministers responsible for implementing the recovery plans and the entrepreneurs eagerly creating prosperity for their families and country to King Abdullah II, who takes a fatherly attitude of concern for both native Jordanians and refugees who now call Jordan home.
During his audience with the king, Gov. Gary Herbert appropriately recognized and thanked the Kingdom of Jordan for its role in bringing stability to the Middle East. That role was on display in 1994 when Jordan signed a historic peace treaty, normalizing relations with Israel. That role is on display today as Jordan strives to establish peace in a troubled region by bringing economic prosperity to its people and showing compassion to millions of refugees.