I have learned over the years to make every effort to plan overseas trips for professional meetings by arriving at least a day early to get adjusted to the time and to get acquainted with the place. I wish I had done that on this trip, as it is such a pity that our one night in Jordan was strained by jet lag and fatigue and we will barely see Amman before we have to leave in the morning. I am determined now to return here.

The good news is that when I do, I will have contacts here and acquaintances with whom I could share friendship. In our brief program here we were treated to a royal dinner at the Amman Marriott by the hotel’s owner, Rajai Muasher. His Excellency Muasher is himself a member of the Jordanian Upper House of Parliament, and he was described by a colleague as one of the most influential Christians in Jordan. An interesting start for this interreligious delegation – never forget that interreligious dialogue is about breaking down assumptions and misunderstandings between us.

His Excellency Muasher, pictured standing as he offered words of greeting to the Delegation, was a most gracious host. Not only were we warmly greeted, but our host demonstrated his sincere interest in our Delegation by inviting several important Jordanian political leaders to dine with us and to address our group.  Two former Prime Ministers joined us for dinner and spoke to us, His Excellency Fayez Tarawneh and H.E. Zeid Rifai.  Senator H.E.  Akel Bilatji (pictured standing with me) was also among our hosts and guest speakers.

Our Delegation was invited to ask questions of the senators. We had an opportunity to hear their views on Mideast Peace – the opportunities and the barriers – and the conversation was far more than superficial niceties. As always, warm thanks to Cardinal McCarrick for his gentle, yet firm leadership of the conversation. He is a blessing to us all.

My question to the Prime Minster was this: “We as religious leaders have come together to bring the voice of religion to peacemaking. After all, this is the ‘Holy Land’, and surely religion has a role in the way we live in this land. How can we as religious leaders best use our voices to help to further the work of peacemaking that you, the political leaders, are trying so earnestly to bring to fruition?” That sparked an interesting difference of opinion between our Jordanian hosts on the meaning of the intersection between religion and politics and religion and peacemaking. Like my colleagues  in our Delegation, I listened intently. And I was reminded, as our facilitator Ron Young articulated tonight, that “listening is not a passive activity.” By actively trying to listen and understand, we may be able to take the learning from the sum of our meetings to achieve yet new insights and certainly new relationships. I was proud to be part of this august group of religious leaders, tonight in large part, because of the capacity our group demonstrated to be active listeners.

I pray that each day of our mission builds upon this. Tomorrow we journey toward Jerusalem, surely a place where compassionate listening will be essential.

Amman has drawn me in, after tomorrow I will look forward to my return.

A good start to an important mission.

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