Jordan Tourism: The one millionth tourist

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Jordan Tourism: The one millionth tourist

By Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader

In conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities’ marking of the one millionth visitor to Petra this year, I was invited alongside the Jordan Tourism Board Authority and in coordination with the Embassy of Jordan to Paris, to participate in the annual gathering of tourist offices affiliated with churches and parishes in France. This is the first time that a Jordanian delegation participates in this annual meeting and is given the opportunity to address promoters of religious tourism from different regions of France.

The situation is reassuring as there are dozens of planned pilgrimage trips to Jordan in the next years. When I started talking to 150 officials of pilgrimage trips, I asked them: Who came to Jordan? All hands were raised. When I asked: Who will come next year? A large number of hands were also raised, and there was a serious desire to cement tourism cooperation.

The delegation was composed of me, a representative of the Embassy of Jordan Ms. Samia Nustas, Director of Religious Tourism in the Jordan Tourism Board Amer Twal and tourism official in France Majd Abu ‘Arqoub.

During the meeting, we talked about the different facets of Christian pilgrimage to Jordan by focusing on historical sites and on religious figures who lived in our country, such as the prophets Abraham, Moses and John the Baptist in addition to Lord Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, the messengers and the martyrs. As has been the case in Italy in previous years, it was agreed that the commercials would not state, “Visit Jordan and the Holy Land”, but rather read “Visit the Holy Land of Jordan” where Jordan would be viewed as part of the Holy Land. This would be an accentuation of the visits conducted by a group of Popes to Jordan since St. Paul visited Jordan in 1964, St. John Paul II in 2000, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, and Pope Francis in 2014. These trips had one slogan, namely “Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: Jordan and Palestine”.

Emphasis was made on the need to meet with Jordanians as families, Churches, individuals and communities in order to extend bridges of communication between local and Western churches. Furthermore, this is intended to be familiarized with the faith experienced in the Churches of Jordan since ancient times, as well as to get acquainted with the spiritual, educational and service institutions provided by the Churches of Jordan to serve the Jordanian society and its guests, namely the brethren, the friends, the forcibly displaced, and refugees.

These meetings with the local community are also aimed at identifying the common living prevailing between Muslims and Christians, which is a global model of cordiality, daily dialogue, and cooperation. We also expressed to our French friends our readiness to help them upon arrival. We are not a tourist office, but we encourage tourism to our country so as to benefit economically and to market Jordan in its capacity as a holy land.

These thoughts brought joy to the attendees. I believe that there will be progress in this regard in the coming months and years so that tourists and pilgrims can extend firm bridges of cooperation and friendship with the local community. Jordan is not old stones where tourists can visit to snap memorial pictures, but rather a safe and stable homeland, thanks to its wise leadership and its generous people.

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