AMMAN — An international advisory board has been formed to oversee the Baptism Site Development Zone, in line with His Majesty King Abdullah’s commitment to safeguarding the site as a global tourism and pilgrimage destination.
The Baptism Site of Jesus Christ in Jordan, also known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan, holds great significance for all Abrahamic faiths, and is one of the most sacred places on earth for all Christians, since it is where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist, and where Christianity began, according to a statement made available to The Jordan Times.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, since the early days of His Majesty the late King Hussein Bin Talal, and under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah, has taken it upon itself and with the utmost care the responsibility to preserve the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ the way John and Jesus saw it over 2,000 years ago, the statement said.
As such, an adjacent Development Zone to the preserved and sacred Baptism Site has been allocated and designated for development purposes.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Baptism Site was officially declared a Christian pilgrimage destination upon late Saint Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2000, and it receives Christians from various denominations, including a number of Popes and other key international religious and political leaders.
It has been named by major Church leaders as one of the three holiest Christian sites in the world, together with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The Advisory Board groups experts from around the world in development, tourism, cultural heritage, hospitality, entertainment, religious and history affairs among other key fields.
Members of the board will be fortunate to contribute to this noble role of preserving, for all humanity, part of world heritage and human legacy, read the statement.
Members will provide strategic advice and guidance to support the development of the Baptism Site Development Zone as a global destination for a holistic tourism experience that encompasses the religious, historical and recreational dimensions, while maintaining spiritual undertones, to build on and amplify Jordan’s message as the land of prophets and interfaith harmony.
The Advisory Board will assist Jordan and the Royal Commission of the Baptism Site by providing insights and support to revive the site as a Pilgrimage Station the way it was on the early Pilgrimage Trail, and develop comprehensive one-to-three-day Christian Pilgrimage Routes to sacred places in the northern, central and southern regions of Jordan.
The routes would follow paths that prophets’ traversed, such as Mount Nebo, where Moses died, the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth and where Lot’s cave exists, Mukawir, where John the Baptist was killed, and Tall Mar-Elyas or Tishbe, the birthplace of Elijah, the statement said.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan currently attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year, and the plan for the Development Zone aims to enhance existing infrastructure and amenities to accommodate millions of additional pilgrims and other visitors from around the world.
It includes establishing a pilgrims’ village with hotels, hospitality and a spiritual ceremonies area, in addition to developing agricultural parks and farms that provide “farm-to-table” food services, as well as developing botanical themed gardens of indigenous, biblical vegetation that holds religious significance, such as palm and olive.
Development plans will be in the Baptism Site Development Zone outside the UNESCO-designated area, and will follow heritage and environmental impact assessments in identifying the zone’s development anchors.
The Advisory Board will include subcommittees on religion and spirituality, history and narration, masterplan and infrastructure, hotels and retail, agriculture, travel, tourism and entertainment, events calendar, technology, development models, and promotional and marketing efforts.
Source: The Jordan Times