(BWA) More than 120 persons were baptized in the Jordan River on Friday, March 20, by pastors from the Jordan Baptist Convention.

The baptisms were the culmination of an afternoon of celebration in which the Baptism Center at Bethany beyond Jordan was dedicated for use by Baptists and other evangelical Christians.

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam, who gave the main address, said, “Today, as we assemble by the Jordan … we unite to mark the opening and dedication of this Baptism Center – a place where people from all parts of the world may assemble for a journey and an experience.”

The BWA leader expressed the hope that “the waters of the Jordan extinguish the crippling fires of hopelessness that burn in the hearts of those who have no knowledge of God.”

Also speaking at the dedication ceremony was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blair, who established a faith foundation upon relinquishing office as British Prime Minister, commended King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein and Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed for exhibiting courage in the inauguration of the Baptism Center.  The center joins buildings of other churches, including the Orthodox Church, which have recently been constructed on the official Baptism Site of Jesus Christ. Blair stated, “In dedicating this site, let us renew our faith in our God, our Lord, and in his message.”

BWA President David Coffey and Fawaz Ameish, Jordan Baptist Convention president and BWA vice president, expressed gratitude to King Abdullah and Prince Ghazi for facilitating the construction and dedication of the center.

The offer of a designated plot of land for the Baptism Center was made by King Abdullah in September 2007 during Coffey’s visit with the Jordan monarch. Prince Ghazi is the chairperson of the board of trustees for the baptismal site. The location is closely approximate to the site where it is believed John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

Coffey read greetings from former United States presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both Baptists, and from prominent Baptist pastor, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, and presented a gift on behalf of the BWA to Prince Ghazi.

A plaque was unveiled to be placed on the building upon its completion. The plaque reads, “The Commission of the Site of the Baptism of Jesus Christ welcomes here visiting pilgrims from the member churches of the Baptist World Alliance.”

Also participating in the event were Imad Maayah, a Baptist and former member of Parliament in Jordan; Toma Magda and Tony Peck, president and general secretary of the European Baptist Federation; and Nabeeh Abbassi, former president of the Jordan Baptist Convention and chief organizer of the dedication and opening.

An estimated 1,700 persons attended the dedication and opening ceremony.

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