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Spirituality in Tourism Forum

Moderator
Gail Lash

Facilitator
Ms. Heather Euler

SUMMARY

Spirituality is a part of our every action, plan, and experience. So many of you - the IIPT members - expressed a desire to be in our Spirituality in Tourism Forum. Due to conflicting schedules of the other excellent fora and presentations, only a small group of twelve participants was gathered on Wednesday, 5 February 2003. Our Network, however, has grown to over 50 members and I look forward to more members in future, as we realize the importance of "soul, spirit and stewardship" in our tourism projects, as Michael Seltzer of BEST so aptly puts it.

Our Mission in the IIPT Spirituality in Tourism Network is to bridge the gaps between diverse cultures and religions to recognize and understand the brotherhood and sisterhood between all peoples; to honor the spiritual essence, as well as the diversity, of hosts and guests; and to promote peace through unity among peoples by connecting with each person worldwide.

[This mission is still in formation - please add your comments to this. Thanks!]

The IIPT Spirituality in Tourism Network met for the fourth time in its history at the UN Conference Center Geneva (CICG) during the first day of the IIPT Second Global Summit for Peace Through Tourism.

HISTORY

The Network was conceived in 1999 in Glasgow with a roundtable brainstorm of what spirituality in tourism means. In Amman, 2000, the Network further developed the idea of exploring Spirituality as a topic of tourism and highlighted the idea of spirituality travel as a human right, specifically in terms of pilgrimage.

The Assisi conference, held in October 2001, was the first conference dedicated to exploring international policy, contemporary issues of poverty alleviation, and active tourism practices seeking spiritual growth. This Geneva Network Forum looked mainly at the concepts of pilgrimages and spiritual travel that promote inter-faith dialogue and understanding.

QUESTIONS

Twelve participants from seven countries (Thailand, England, USA, Switzerland, Slovenia, Turkey, and Israel) came together on 5 February 2003 to explore ways in which spirituality in tourism can create peace. We examined such questions as:

  • How can spirituality in tourism be applied?
  • What is a pilgrimage?
  • Who can be a pilgrim?
  • How can tourism to religious and sacred sites promote peace?
  • How can inter-faith tours promote understanding of diverse faiths and increase tolerance and knowledge of one's fellow humans?
  • How important is it to stay in local peoples' homes and to develop a relationship with local people?

All sacred texts emphasize providing hospitality to strangers. This is the cornerstone of peace through tourism.

The Astronauts of Columbia were acknowledged, and the fact that they saw no political boundaries from space, and instead saw the unity of peoples of world. KEY

FACTORS

We found several key factors of using spirituality as a way to promote peace:

1) Build relationships

We have heard in many of the plenary and concurrent sessions that peace will only come about when we see the humanity in our neighbors and honor the universal human qualities among peoples - that the earth is one country and all humankind its citizens. A great example, both of promoting inter-faith dialogue and of building cross-cultural relationships, was the presentation given by Ms. Vida Bajc ["bytes"], a University of Pennsylvania PhD Candidate. She shared that in Christian tours of Jerusalem, Israeli tour guides and Moslem bus drivers worked together by each telling their personal experiences, as a Moslem or a Jew, to their group of tourists. In doing so, the guides and drivers developed a personal friendship that transcended the differences in their religions and general belief about the other. Once the relationship was there, then the tie was solid and no war could separate it.

2) Honor diversity

Peace cancels out the distance between people and is inclusive and brings people together. Peace releases the concepts of "Foreigners" and racism. Peace accepts the "otherness" of the other the way they are. It appreciates the unique human image of God in everyone. Break boundaries and built bridges! Practice "Radial equality and total inclusiveness." Realize that the diverse talents of each person are needed. In inter-faith dialogue we can learn to honor diverse faiths, and hear the common messages of God in each, and the common origins of each, such as Abraham as the father of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith.

3) Peace comes from inside

Milanka Lachman, of 206 Pilgrimages and Spiritual Tours gave a heartfelt presentation on pilgrimages, and their value at bringing peace to oneself, and between one's family, friends and colleagues. Her messages were: Practice finding peace in your heart; peace must speak from your face. Mother Teresa was one of the greatest peace promoters in our time because she crossed the religious barriers and helped anyone who needed uplifting spiritually. She said to help your neighbors and love them unconditionally - including the drunk man on your street. Have no fear.

4) Fear, not Hate, is the opposite of Love

We fear what we do not know - "FEAR" is "False Expectations Appearing Real." When we know and understand that which we had feared, the fear is gone. When we develop relationships with people, we get to know and understand them and their differences from us. Fear disappears and is replaced with friendship. Get down to the personal level and get to know each other. This is what tourism is all about.

NEXT SPIRITUALITY IN TOURISM CONFERENCE SITE & TIMELINE

The Assisi Conference was so inspiring, while "walking in the footsteps of St. Francis," that we all agreed that another Spirituality in Tourism Network Conference, open to all IIPT members, colleagues, and families would be valuable, as well as enjoyable.

Various timelines and places were discussed. Even though we had some very concrete ideas, no final schedule, place, nor date was fixed. Please add your thoughts to when YOU would like to see the next Spirituality in Tourism Conference meet, and what the topics are that you would like to see discussed, and acted on.

Timelines:

Any time from as soon as October 2003, February 2004, to May 2004 for the single Spirituality Network conference was proposed, and November 2004 or February 2005 in conjunction with the next IIPT Global Summit. It was generally agreed that planning a conference would take at least 8 months, if not a year in advance. We wish to have it thoroughly advertised with sufficient time allowed so that a large group of interested friends/colleagues can participate.

Turkey
We were honored to have Ms. Shoshana Beckerman from Israel also representing the Mayor of Harran, Turkey (who unfortunately could not come due to the staging of troops in Turkey) to talk about several exciting partnerships between IIPT and Harran. These are the development of a Peace park at "Jacobs Well" in Harran, Turkey, and the establishment of a Global Resource Center on Peace Through Tourism. We developed a preliminary conference title and possible schedule for a conference in Harran: "Spirituality in Tourism: Foundation for Tolerance, Walking in the Footsteps of Abraham" Like Assisi, the conference would include a couple of days visiting the sacred sites of Abraham, 2-3 days of meetings, and optional tours to Mercen and Adana.

DISCUSSION also centered around this either being a separate Spirituality in Tourism conference, like Assisi, or the next Global Summit on Peace Through Tourism, held in Istanbul, with a post conference in Harran for the Spirituality Network. This is because Istanbul can hold a large number of attendees, and Harran, although possessing conference facilities, is more limited in that regard.

Other Sites

Asia was suggested as an area to hold the next Spirituality in Tourism Conference so as to diversify from the Abrahamic religions. As our friends in Bali have made it known that tourism and spirituality is welcomed on this beautiful island, Bali was discussed as a possible site for an Asian conference of this Network. Two additional sites were also briefly proposed: Pushkar and Varanasi, India. Japan was also mentioned by one of the delegates. And of course, we had so much fun and spiritual enlightenment in Assisi, Italy, that it was also proposed to go back there each year!

CEREMONIES

We conducted a brief "Peace Prayer Circle" from James Twyman, by circling around a cloth depicting a sacred circle with connecting lines, reading multiple-faith prayers and singing: "Seek not peace here, but find it everywhere. Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere." We also "prayed peace" to the world while listening to James' music. At the closing of the day, an Inter-Faith Ceremony was preformed with the Student Alliance and two local Geneva religious leaders, Father William McComish (Christian) and Madame Daniele Bianchi (Bahá'í Faith).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

Volunteer Staff: Gail Lash for conducting the Forum Day, and reporting on it.

Heather Euler for preparing this Forum Day program with such diligence that I could step back in at the end of January, and, with just a few last minute speaker changes, easily run the Forum on 5 February.

The IIPT Geneva Spirit Committee [Ishtar Adler, Barbara Spee Perrins, Monica Williard, Jenny Stephenson, Milanka Lachman, Diane Williams, Heather Euler, and Lou D'Amore] for their creative brainstorming and decisive actions in putting this Forum Day together. You all did a lot of coordination work, and we thank you!

Panelists:

  • Milanka Lachman, 206 Pilgrimage and Spiritual Tours
  • Shoshana Beckerman, Director of Bible
  • Adventures and Global Ethics Research Center.
  • Vida Bajc, University of Pennsylvania, PhD Candidate.
  • Father Akram JAVID, Pakistan, was able to come later in the week, and present at the closing session of the Summit.

Local Religious Community for Roundtable & Interfaith service

  • Father Eamonn Mulcahy
  • Father William McComish
  • Madame Daniele Bianchi

    And All Other Participants!!

Thanks to you all.
With peace and joy,
Gail Lash

Email: ursainternational@hotmail.com
OR gail@ursainternational.org
Phone: 1-404-222-9595

Copyright © 1999-2007
International Institute for Peace Through Tourism