( dpa ) - The Jordanian authorities have deported a number of foreign Christians who "violated the law" by carrying out missionary activities, Minister of State for Information and Communication Affairs Nasser Judeh said Wednesday.
"The authorities have deported a number of people who entered the country under the pretext of performing voluntary work but were spotted carrying out missionary activities," Judeh told the lower house of parliament in response to interpolations by deputies.
He praised a statement issued earlier by leaders of churches in Jordan, who denied allegations by the deportees that Christians in Jordan were being discriminated against.
"The statement issued by the Council of Churches made it clear that Christians in Jordan lived in peace and security with their Muslim brethren and that the Jordanian constitution guaranteed the rights of all Jordanians regardless of their religion and sect," Judeh said.
In a statement issued last week, the Council of Churches - the highest Christian body in Jordan - denounced "missionary groups that presented themselves as charitable organizations" and refuted allegations that the government was cracking down on foreign Christians living in the kingdom.
The council was responding to an article published earlier this month by Compass Direct News alleging that the Jordanian authorities expelled and refused residence permits to 27 expatriate Christians from the United States, South Korean, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq for belonging to evangelical groups.
"It is puzzling that certain small groups with a few hundred members and which are foreign to Christians in Jordan and to the history of Muslim-Christian relations, permit themselves to speak in the name of Christians and act as protectors of Christianity as if it were in danger," the council said.
Christians in Jordan, who represent about 5 per cent of the country's 5.5-million population, elect their deputies at the lower house of parliament, has representatives at the Upper house and are represented by one or two ministers at the cabinet.