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Petra’s new dawn: Opening ancient Christian churches to prayer

Key Points

  • Jordan has allowed Christian prayers in Petra’s Byzantine-era churches for the first time since their excavation.
  • This decision is part of Jordan’s efforts to promote religious tourism, showcasing Petra’s Christian heritage alongside its Nabatean history.
  • The initiative could enhance Christian pilgrimages to Jordan, linking biblical history with the archaeological sites.

Jordan has recently permitted Christian prayers in the Byzantine-era churches within Petra, a significant shift from the past when such activities were restricted post-excavation. This move is aimed at bolstering religious tourism by highlighting Petra’s Christian heritage in addition to its renowned Nabatean archaeological wonders. The integration of Christian historical sites into Jordan’s tourism narrative is seen as a way to attract more Christian pilgrims, offering them a unique opportunity to connect with biblical history tangibly.

Christianity Today reports:

Imagine yourself as Indiana Jones, traversing the narrow, nearly mile-long Siq gorge, with mountain cliffs towering on either side. Turning a corner then reveals the vast expanse of the ancient city of Petra and its majestic Treasury, the first-century rock-carved tomb of an ancient Nabatean king. You pass by the 121-foot-tall structure and its statues of Roman and Egyptian gods, making your way up a steep 800-step ascent to the equally impressive Monastery.

But before reaching Petra’s largest monument, you turn off the path into a different sort of ruin, mosaics lining the floor around half-sized recycled columns as incense wafts through the air. But unlike in the Harrison Ford movie, you do not meet an 11th-century knight preserved by the Holy Grail. Instead, the Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Jordan passes you a cup of Holy Communion.

Read the full article.

Theme Pros Cons
Religious Tourism Enhances the pilgrimage experience by connecting visitors with ancient Christian sites. Over-commercialization could detract from the spiritual and historical essence of Petra.
Cultural Heritage Promotes the preservation and appreciation of Jordan’s diverse historical legacy. Risk of damage to ancient sites due to increased foot traffic.
Economic Impact Boosts Jordan’s economy through increased tourism revenue. Potential for unequal economic benefits, favoring tourism sectors over local communities.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the inclusion of Christian sites in Petra’s tourism narrative enrich the understanding of religious history in the region?
  2. What measures can be taken to ensure the preservation of Petra’s archaeological sites amid increased tourism?
  3. How can Jordan balance the economic benefits of tourism with the need to maintain the spiritual significance of these ancient Christian sites?

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