Smakieh: a fish in the Jordanian desert

Published: February 14 Wed, 2018

Smakieh: a fish in the Jordanian desert Available in the following languages:

SMAKIEH – In the South of Jordan, in a semi-desert area, stands the parish of the triumphant the Cross of St. Michael the Archangel of Smakieh. This small village’s footprint, in the shape of the early Christian fish symbol, is along with the town of Fuheis, the only entirely Christian village of Jordan.

An entirely Christian village

If the shape and name of Smakieh (inspired by Samac, fish in Arabic) strangely reveal its origins, it is that the village was created from zero by the Christian minority. In the seventeenth century, the Muslim Majali family, which historically has excellent relations with the Christian community of the village, facilitated the sale of land to the Church: thus, the birth of Smakieh. Two large families – Hijazin and Akasheh – came from Petra to settle there: the Hijazin family, native of Wadi Musa and the Akasheh, originally from Nazareth. The construction of the Latin Church St. Michael the Archangel took place much later, in 1912. Today, the village has about 2,000 people, of Latin and Melkite mixture, with about 230 Latin families.

A dynamic parish

Arriving for six months ago, Father Ibrahim Naffa took charge of a very active parish. The primary school alone has 330 students of which 65% is Christian, a particularly high rate compared to the average in the Latin Patriarchate schools. Muslim students from nearby towns are enrolled in the crowded school. Smakieh remains fairly isolated geographically, Father Naffa and the Rosary Sisters supply a wide range of spiritual and social activities so that children and adults can meet there. During the week of Christians, Smakieh is punctuated by youth meetings (JEC, three age groups), worship, training of altar servers, a football tournament, and Christian formation: theological evenings on major themes such as marriage, the Eucharist. “The aim, through this, is to bring spiritual depth to everything we do in the day,” explains Father Naffa. “Even the youngest learn to put the spiritual in the day with the weekly Mass in school.”  In addition to all these activities, the priest regularly visits families. These simple visits enable him to know the parishioners. To run all these activities, Fr. Naffa and the Sisters count on thirty lay leaders, each with a defined role. A dynamism that cannot dry up the flow of vocations that characterizes this small village: since its inception, Smakieh has given 18 priests and 21 sisters in the Church!

Claire Guigou