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Religious Tourism: What is it and why is it so important?
What is religious tourism?
Religious tourism has taken place since the dawn of civilisation. Pilgrims travelled to pay homage to the sacred places and their guardians throughout the world. Tourism to sacred sites has merged with pilgrimage in the past 2,000 years. More recently, in the past 200 years wealthy Europeans visited special sites of sacred ritual in both the New World and throughout Europe.
Why is it so important?
Sites of special sacred significance have been visited for millennia. What is now important is that these sites need protection, conservation and interpretation. There are few guardians of these special places of worship and visitation and even fewer sources of funds to maintain and manage sites for visitors and worshippers. We do make a distinction between worshippers and visitors, as the religious sites cater for both in roughly equal amounts at some very special places like Lourdes in France and Fatima in Portugal.
Religious tourism in history
The management of religious tourism presents many challenges that are unique in both breadth and application. Sites of religious significance have existed since biblical times and pilgrimage in the Judeo-Christian context is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, for example, in the story of Elkanah, who travels annually to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice (1 Samuel 1:1-28). It is also present in the New Testament Pentecost story, when Jews from all over the world went to Jerusalem for the Passover (Acts 2: 1-12). Many of these sites still exist and other sites, although not as old, have considerable heritage value. The management of heritage sites presents particular problems, one of which relates to the cost of maintenance.
Managing sites of religious tourism
Most religious sites are owned by religious organisations, and this may cause challenges for their management, as they must balance the needs of worshippers with those of their visitors. Mosques are at the centre of Islamic tourism and are visited by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Muslims may visit mosques while travelling as a tourist attraction or as a place of worship. Many mosques have a dual role, functioning as both a place of worship and as a community centre. The role of the community centre means that the mosque will be open for functions and festivities that are not strictly religious in nature and may include non-Muslims.
Muslim countries, such as those in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) welcome tourism, especially religious tourism. But they make a distinction between pilgrimage, the most well know being the Hajj, and other forms of religious tourism. While non-Muslims are welcome at sites such as mosques, they are not welcome at the Hajj. The Hajj is one of the most important forms of pilgrimage today with millions of Muslims travelling to Makkah (Mecca) in Saudi Arabia and, without question, the most important Muslim pilgrimage. It is therefore important to distinguish between Muslim travellers to Muslim sites and non-Muslim visitors to these sites. For example, it is not acceptable for non-Muslims to enter the region of Hejaz where the cities of Mecca and Medina are located.
Visitors and worshippers
One of the conflicts that has been noted is between visitors to religious sites and worshippers. While many visitors see worshippers as part of the experience, some worshippers do not like the feeling of being observed. Worshippers do not want to feel that they are part of a ‘show’, but are happy to share their religious space, and are proud of the architecture and history that attracts visitors to the site. Sacredness does not readily cross cultural boundaries. What is viewed as sacred by one group, such as congregants, may be seen as culturally interesting by another visitor group. Given that some visitors may wish to engage in worship, Church authorities may need to determine when a request to participate in a service should be accepted as an expression of genuine interest and/or intention.
RELIGIOUS VOCABULARY – VALLÁSSAL ÉS HITTEL KAPCSOLATOS SZAVAK
Bible – Biblia
biblical times – bibliai idők
congregant – gyülekezeti tag
conservation – megőrzés
the Hajj – haddzs (a mekkai zarándoklat)
heritage value – örökségi érték
interpretation – értelmezés
Islamic tourism – iszlám turizmus
Jew – zsidó
Judeo-Christian – zsidó-keresztény
Makkah (Mecca) – Mekka
mosque – mecset
Muslim – muszlim
New Testament – Újtestamentum
non-Muslim – nem muszlim
Old Testament – Ótestamentum
Passover – Pészah (zsidó ünnep)
pay homage – tisztelegni
Pentecost – pünkösd
pilgrim – zarándok
place of worship – istentiszteleti hely
religious organisation – vallási szervezet
religious tourism – vallási turizmus
sacred place – szent hely
sacred site – szent hely
sacredness – szakralitás
sacrifice – áldozat
worshipper – imádó
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