A Jordanian delegation consisting of the Jordan Tourism Board, the Baptism Site Authority, and the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) participated in the 10th International Conference of Religious Tourism which convened in Fatima, Portugal, and organized by the Portuguese ACISO Organization on June 23-24.
The opening ceremony, which was held at Paul VI Hall abutting the renowned Grotto of Fatima, was attended by Portuguese Minister of Tourism Rita Marques, Rector of Fatima Grotto Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas, ACISO President Purificação Reis, a number of municipal and tourism officials, Auxiliary Bishop of Lisbon Diocese Bishop Américo Aguiar, more than 500 participants from 44 countries, and included official tourist agencies, exporting and supplier offices, exhibitions for every country, and more than 1,500 bilateral meetings at specially prepared tables set with prior appointments.
After Jordan was announced as the guest country for this year, a session was devoted to Jordan moderated by Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media and member of the National Tourism Council, who said that Jordan’s choice as a guest of the 10th international conference is an indication of the fruitful efforts undertaken by the Ministry of Tourism, the Jordan Tourism Board, and the Baptism Site Commission in cooperation with the local churches that form the bridge between the Christians of the East and the West. Furthermore, this matter in an indication of international appreciation of Jordan in its capacity as part of the Holy Land’s historic and religious treasures which are taken care of by the Hashemite leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein, who is globally recognized for his preeminence among Arab leaders, as he won international awards in the field of interfaith dialogue, being a reflection of the Jordan’s endeavor for dialogue and fraternity among all citizens.
Marketing Director of the Jordan Tourism Board Ahmad Al-Hamoud said that the Jordan Tourism Board strongly believes that Portugal, Spain, and other major European countries are important targeted markets for religious pilgrimage, not only in their capacity as exporting and independent markets, but also because they constitute markets that provide us with the opportunity to communicate with North America and Latin America, thus we can provide the opportunity for pilgrims from all over the world to travel to Jordan and complete pilgrimage trips.
Amer Isam Twal, on official of the Jordan Tourism Board, stressed the importance of visiting Jordan, the land of holiness and of the tourism experiences that characterize this country. In the presentation, he touched on several issues including preparing the visitors, the spiritual tourism experiences, including the Christian pilgrimage path “Egeria” and the path of John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Church in Jordan. He invited the participants to visit Jordan and live a unique experience of its kind, namely a homogeneous mixture of tourism and spiritual experiences mixed with the authentic Jordanian spirit of its people including its churches and mosques. He thanked the conference organizers for inviting Jordan to participate for the first time in this annual global tourism event.
Director of the Baptism Site Engineer Rustom Mkhjian presented a briefing about the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in Jordan, focusing on the Baptism Site and the important religious events that took place at the Site throughout history, which culminated in the baptism of Lord Jesus Christ, the beginning of Christianity, and its spread to the world. He also referred to, Jordan’s important initiatives such as interfaith harmony as well as building bridges of love and peace among all people.
Representative of the national carrier,Royal Jordanian, Zakaria Ebadi, also gave a briefing on the airline’s future aspirations and the incentives it offers to tourists and pilgrims.
An international tourism exhibition was held after the two-day conference, during which members of the Jordanian delegation met with various 47 participants countries in the conference which included official tourism functionaries or owners of tourist offices, who expressed their desire to conduct pilgrimage trips to Jordan in the coming years.
On the sidelines of the conference, the Jordanian delegation met Portuguese Minister of Tourism Rita Marques, and conveyed to her the gratitude and appreciation of the tourism authorities for considering Jordan as the main guest country for this year. A special meeting was also held with the participation of Fr. Rifa’t Bader, Engineer Rustom Mkhjian and Mr. Amer Isam Twal with Rector of Fatima Grotto Fr. Carlos Cabecinhas during which discussions focused on future cooperation between the grotto of Fatima, which is one of the largest and most outstanding religious tourism sites in the world, and the tourist sites in Jordan.
In conjunction with the Feast of St. John the Baptist–who lived in Jordan, baptized Lord Jesus Christ in Bethany, and was martyred in the Fortress of Machaerus–the Jordanian delegation presented gifts to the participants in the conference which included waters of the River Jordan, the salt of the Dead Sea, brochures on tourist areas, and keffiyehs, in addition to Jordanian sweets.
Munir Bayouk/ en.abouna.org