Tourism to and from Jordan

Tourism to and from Jordan

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

In the past few days, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media organized a "pilgrimage" and tourism trip in which more than 50 citizens from all over the Kingdom took part. The two-week trip included three major stopovers in three countries, namely Spain, France and Portugal where the delegation visited all important religious shrines, especially the city of Lourdes in southern France, Fatima in the northern Portugal, and Santiago which is dedicated to honor St. Jacob in Spain. In all these sites, we prayed in Arabic and sang hymns.

We had a meeting in the city of Lourdes with Bishop of Tarbes et Lourdes Nicolas Jean René where a grotto, that bears the same name was launched two years ago at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Naour, has been granted membership of the Family of Our Lady of Lourdes and became known as the “Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes”. Bishop Nicolas Jean René expressed his desire to visit our beloved country as every family participating in the pilgrimage trip expressed willingness to host him.

A bird’s eye view on religious tourism in the world reveals the amazing daily organization and readiness to receive dozens of thousands of visitors, tourists, pilgrims, and worshipers as well as those who seek tranquility amidst an escalation of fear and anxiety in the world of an uncertain future that witnesses climate change, namely geographic and security climate. Amidst this trip, there has been concern which can summed in: Our beloved country whose flag we hoisted high in international forums encloses religious sites or rather “the most major” and sacred sites in religious history. Yet, terrorism in this part of the world misses the prevailing atmospheres elsewhere which include thousands of people.

The Christian religion, marked in the countries of the world, emerged from our country. What does prevent us from being leaders of world religious tourism? Where did we get in the process of promoting, organizing and issuing attractive tourist rates? A lady who works at a religious souvenir shop in Portugal told me:"I love to come to Jordan and visit Petra (which is the most famous Jordanian place in the world), but I have learned that ticket fares to your country are high." This is a simple example on the need to move and make a change to all the "systems” followed in tourism.

As we moved in Western Europe from one country to another and from grotto to another, we marked the feast of one of the great prophets, namely “Prophet Elijah” (also known as Prophet Elias) who was born in a remote and little known Village called Tishbe, which lies among the mountains of Gilead, on the other side of the Jordan River, in Ajloun Governorate. Next to the Baptism Site, the hill of “Prophet Elias” is located from where he ascended to Heaven in a chariot of fire, and horses of fire. There were no celebrations on that day, yet his birthplace still needs protection on these mosaic floors which can be traced back to the 5th century. There are two churches there, a big and a small one, which can be of touristic attraction owing to respect and appreciation expressed by followers of all religions to Prophet Elijah.

Our Jordanian delegation returns home with memories of thousands of stories on the promotion of religious tourism in "other" parts of the world, and about tourism that needs a lot of efforts to become attractive to all others so as to pave the way to them come, to visit us, and to pray in our Holy Places. Nothing is impossible as God makes a way.

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