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Story Publication logo March 24, 2016

Reporter's Notebook: On the Way to Jordan

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Multiple Authors
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Grantee Mark Hoffman travels to Jordan to report on the volunteer work of a Syrian-born pediatric neurologist in a refugee camp in Jordan. Image by Mark Hoffman.

CHICAGO—As in many faith traditions, it is a core belief in Islam that one must care for the poorest and most vulnerable.

The main subject of our upcoming story, Syrian-born pediatric neurologist Tarif Bakdash, is a Sufi Muslim, a follower of an ancient tradition of scholars and mystics, who take very seriously the tenets of the faith.

He is leading a group of Milwaukee-area volunteers—doctors and nurses among them—to Jordan to work for a week at a Syrian refugee camp. Bakdash, a U.S. citizen, hopes to return again next month, and is seeking a job that will allow him more time to make such trips.

He and his group leave Friday night. I made the journey early.

Waiting to get on the plane at O'Hare International Airport, there were quite a few people who took time to affirm their relationship with God by bowing down in the direction of Mecca and praying.

How do they know which direction to face?

Well, there's an app for that.

The overwhelming majority of the passengers on the flight to Jordan appeared to be Arab Muslims, so no one gave it a second thought that people were kneeling and praying in the airport concourse.

One thing I had never seen before while boarding a plane was a large presence of officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one with a dog, double-checking travel documents at the gate.

While on the plane, monitors on the seat-backs told passengers how far the aircraft was from Mecca and what direction it was.

Upon clearing customs in Amman, Jordan, large groups of families were reunited with warm embraces—the sort that might embarrass most Americans.



war and conflict reporting


War and Conflict

War and Conflict

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