While seeing holy sites and ancient structures remains popular for Christian tourists visiting the Holy Land, there is an emerging concern among Christians that tourists have an ethical obligation to engage with the people living there, to become witnesses to their struggle for freedom, human dignity, equality, justice and peace.
To promote and bolster this message, theologians, peace advocates and justice tourism activists will gather in Chavannes-de-Bogis, Geneva, in Switzerland from 18-21 May 2010 for a consultative meeting aimed at consolidating a “theology of pilgrimage for Palestine-Israel”.
The meeting is being organised by the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) in cooperation with the the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism (ECOT), Kairos Palestine and the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) which is an initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The ATG is a Palestinian NGO specialising in tours and pilgrimages which incorporate critical examinations of the Holy Land’s history, culture and politics.
The consultation will produce a study guide for Christian tourists in Palestine-Israel, encouraging them to “come-see-witness” the realities of Palestine-Israel today.
Rami Kassis, ATG Director, explains: “Justice tourism in Palestine can make a fundamental contribution towards the development of peace in the Middle East and beyond. Tourists with a commitment to social justice – justice tourists – have the opportunity, not only to make positive contributions to the communities they visit, but to become holders of the knowledge that will one day lead to equality, democracy and human rights for all.”
A Code of Conduct published by the Palestine Initiative for Responsible Tourism offers guidance to Holy Land pilgrims on trip preparation and cultural considerations, as well as suggestions for sharing their experience when they return home.
It advises them to “choose an inclusive and balanced itinerary that allows [them] to visit and stay in different places”, and to “establish contact with Palestinians to get up-to-date information about the current situation, safety, local history, culture and customs.”
“Palestinian suffering demands that the world act for justice without delay, making every effort in every related sphere,” said Kassis.
“In light of tourism’s potential to open minds, this consultative meeting in Geneva is a contribution to the global struggle to achieve a just peace for Palestine and Israel.”
The website of the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) can be found here: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/programmes/public-witness-addressing-power-a...