Travelling is very popular nowadays. Tourism industry is one of the most profitable economic spheres. In fact, people choose to travel because of diverse reasons and motivations. Usually, exhausted from daily routine, people travel in order to relax and revive their energy. In our postmodern society, tourism is one of the most important economic industries for many developing countries. Nevertheless, there are also moral purposes of tourism. That is why it is important to pay attention to the phenomenon of religious tourism, which can also be referred to as pilgrimage tourism.
In fact, tourism is a complex concept. Mill and Morrison once mentioned, “Tourism is a difficult phenomenon to describe, all tourism involves travel, yet all travel is not tourism” (Raj, 2007). Journeys related to religious sites and festivals, pilgrimage or spirituality, have long been a feature of human travel (Raj, 2007). Nevertheless, although religion is usually perceived as benevolent, it can sometimes be violent and hostile. For example, there exist various armed groups around the world, such as al-Qaeda, which claim religious justification for their activities (Haynes, 2009).
That is why, it is necessary to mention that religious tourism can be beneficial to conflict resolution. Pilgrimage theories focus primarily on religious motivation for visiting religious sites (Schott, 2008). Thus, it is important to mention that peacemaking can be one of the goals of religious tourism.
Findings and discussions
Religion is a very complex concept, which includes many important characteristics. For example, Raj (2007) mentiones that religion is an age-old dynamic concept embracing ancient, living (including traditional living religions of primal societies) faiths and the emergence of new religious and quasi-religious movements (also recognized as secular alternatives to religion). According to this definition religion is not only a set of sacred practices such as worshiping. In fact, religion is an act of faith, which can have many forms, such as pilgrimage.
There are many historical examples of connections between religion and travel. For instance, Islam as a vital, vivacious and expanding religion, in which Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina in AD 622 was the genesis of the rapid spread of Islam throughout the world (Raj, 2007). Therefore, it is necessary to define the term “religious tourism”.
In fact, it is not easy to give a single definition to “religious tourism”. Very often cultural and religious travel are used synonymously because the majority of cultural tourists visit religious sites as part of their itinerary, and are thus often referred to as religious tourists (Nieminen, 2012). Nevertheless, it is necessary to stress that unlike cultural tourism, religious tourism can have many functions. Therefore, religious tourism as a form of travel is either about observing or participating in different activities according to one’s belief, and is about sharing a religious experience with someone and witnessing the faith (Nieminen, 2012).
According to this definition, religious tourism is also focused on sharing religious practices. In fact, the number of tourists travelling purely for religious reasons is relatively small, while many studies conclude that spiritual motivations for engaging in pilgrimage outweigh religious ones (Richards, 2007). It also includes discussion of diverse religious doctrines and values. Thus, both cultural and religious tourism complement one another, and the promotion of religious tourism today seen as both devotional and cultural is a proof of the existence of this common “search” (Swatos, 1998). Therefore, religious tourism is a broad term, which involves many aspects.
Religion is usually involved in different conflicts. One of the reasons is that there are various religious doctrines, which are competing with each other. If speaking in terms of contemporary conflicts, there are three common forms that involve religion, namely religious ‘fundamentalisms’; ‘religious terrorism’, especially involving ‘failed’ states, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, or Somalia; and controversies that surround ‘the clash of civilization’ thesis (Haynes, 2009). Thus, differences between East and West are creating many religious conflicts. For example, Christianity and Islam have many traditions and values that can clash.
As a result, when claiming both absolute and exclusive validity, religious conviction can lead to intolerance, over-zealous proselytisation and religious fragmentation (Haynes, 2009). There are also many examples when religion has a different interpretation of law and individual rights. For example, leaders within faith-based organizations may seek to legitimize abuses of power and violation of human rights in the name of religious zeal (Haynes, 2009). Therefore, such situations can lead to serious conflicts.
Therefore, religious tourism is closely connected to international relations. Whil religious conflict resolution began to emerge only in the 1990s, religion has always been an integral part of international relations (Shore, 2009). In addition, religion needs to be taken seriously in international conflict resolution, because the changing nature of international conflict necessitates consideration of religion as a dimension in resolution (Shore, 2009). Therefore, religion is an important part of international conflict resolution, because it is influencing moral obligation.
Conflict resolution, or in other words peacemaking, is a process, which involves variety of important components. First of all, conflict resolution is impossible without strong leaders, which are able to guide and inspire people. ‘Religious peacemakers’ are religious individuals or representatives of faith-based organizations that attempt to help resolve inter-group conflicts and build peace (Haynes, 2009). These leaders should have particular qualities, which can help them achieve their peacemaking goals. For instance, true peacemakers are propelled by their faith; they have an unusual capacity to deeply understand others and experience with great compassion their hopes and their pain (Little, 2005).
Religion can also help war-torn countries transit to democracy and sustainable peace building, because it often plays such a strong role in civil society (Shore, 2009). Therefore, religion can contribute to creation of effective civil society, which is able to peacefully involve in political process. Religion can provide people with understanding of peaceful negotiation, moral values and respect. Thus, people would be able to build effective government based on these basic religious values. Religious texts are also important sources of religious motivation. For example, Qu’ran was used as a resource to help women become empowered (Little, 2005). Therefore, religious texts play a very important role in conflict resolution and transition to peaceful state.
Tradition and symbolism are also important elements of peacemaking. Common religious traditions can contribute to conflict resolution in many situations. For instance, Ethiopia’s tradition of eldership can bring communities to peace in a way that politicians or professionals with their frequent lack of understanding of key local traditions never can (Little, 2005). Therefore, pilgrimage can be especially beneficial for places where people share the same religious traditions.
Nevertheless, very often communities who do not share same religious traditions face conflicts. In such cases, religion helps in finding common ground through debates. For example, Nigerian Peacemakers Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa were bitter enemies leading militant religious groups, and decided to organize a debate between their respective Christian and Muslim communities (Little, 2005). It seems like Christianity and Islam have completely different religious approaches and traditions. However, despite this fact, both leaders came to a surprising realization that their religions had more similarities than differences, and now they work together to break stereotypes of religious “other”. This is a perfect example of how a common religious ground can impact peacemaking.
Education is another important element of peacemaking. In fact, peace should not only be achieved, but also preserved. The promotion of religion, official religious education, the growth of diaspora tourism influenced the development of educational-religious tourism for educational and religious reasons sand purposes (Dallen, 2006). There are also many successful examples of religious education, which contributed to conflict resolution. For instance, Abuna Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian Istraeli citizen living in the Galilee, founded the Mar Elias Educational Institutions to educate a new generation on the possibility of coexistence in a land as diverse as the religious and ethnic identity he himself represents (Little, 2005). As a result, many students from diverse religious background are educated in this school. Religious tourism can also contribute to this practice. By travelling to new regions and sharing knowledge and experiences on conflict management it is important to establish principles of peacemaking in many regions.
The fact is that communication is a vital tool for the peacemaking. Many religious leaders are writing different peace notes, which encourage religious peacemaking. For example, Nigerian peacemakers Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa drafted and signed the Kaduna Peace Agreement, helping to calm years of widespread violence perpetrated in Kaduna State in the name of religion (Little, 2005). Therefore, diplomacy and written agreements are also good ways of preserving peace.
Nowadays there are many peace building religious organizations, which are promoting conflict resolution in different parts of the world. They have specifically been identified as following:
1. ‘emotional and spiritual support to war-affected communities’,
2. effective mobilization for ‘their communities and others for peace’,
3. mediation ‘between conflicting parties’, and
4. a conduit in pursuit of ‘reconciliation, dialogue, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration’ (Haynes, 2009).
Therefore, the role of such organization in religious tourism is increasing.
The importance of pure pilgrimage can be clearly seen in sites such as Lourdes, Mecca and Chiang Mai (Raj, 2007). Nevertheless, it is also necessary to find universal ways to resolve conflicts through religious tourism. Nowadays, it is possible to think of interactions between religion and globalization in other ways (Lehman, 2009). For instance, today people are actively sharing political practices, such as democracy. Therefore, if it is possible to share democratic values, religious views can also be transmitted from one country to another.
Religious tourism should play a major role in peace building process in the modern era of globalization. Religious tourism is also focused on sharing religious practices. That is why it is necessary to arrange different religious conferences and other events. In fact, religion is becoming less popular, while spirituality or the search for belief through spirituality is more of a trend, which will reshape the characteristics of religious tourism in the future (Nieminen, 2012). That is why such meetings can significantly contribute to peace building process and conflict resolution in many areas.
Religious reconciliation needs to use more of the language and methods of modern conflict resolution (Little, 2005). It is important to promote communication between diverse religious views. For example, it is possible to use language, which can be understood by different religious traditions. This communication should be focused on common features of different religions. For instance, the notion that there is God and He expects His people to behave in a moral way is similar in many religions. Thus, peacemaking can be achieved by finding some common grounds between different religions.
Nowadays, tourism industry is viewed as one of the most profitable economic spheres. Nevertheless, there are also moral purposes of tourism. There are many historical examples of connections between religion and traveling. In fact, even though religion is usually perceived as benevolent, it can sometimes be violent and hostile. That is why conflict resolution is one of the main goals of religious tourism.
Religion is a very complex concept, which includes many important characteristics. It is not only a set of sacred practices, such as worshiping, it is an act of faith, which can have many forms such as pilgrimage. In fact, it is not easy to give a single definition to “religious tourism”. As a matter of fact, religious tourism is usually focused on sharing religious practices. It also includes discussion of diverse religious doctrines and values. Therefore, both cultural and religious tourism complement one another, and the promotion of religious tourism today seen as both devotional and cultural is a proof of the existence of this common “search” (Swatos, 1998).
Religion is usually involved in different conflicts, for instance; differences between East and West create many religious misunderstandings. That is why religious tourism is closely connected to international relation and peacemaking process. Conflict resolution, or in other words peacemaking, is a process that involves variety of important components. In fact, conflict resolution is impossible without strong leaders, which are able to guide and inspire people. These leaders should have particular qualities, which can help them achieve their peacemaking goals.
Religious texts are also important sources of religious motivation. That is why pilgrimage can be especially beneficial for places where people share the same religious traditions. However, religion also helps to find common ground for conflicting groups through debates.
Religion can also contribute to creation of an effective civil society, which is able to peacefully involve in political process. Therefore, religious texts play a very important role in conflict resolution and transition to peaceful state. Peacemakers Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa offered a perfect example of how common religious views can impact peacemaking.
Education is another important element of peacemaking. There are many successful examples, when religious education and religious tourism contributed to conflict resolution. By travelling to new regions and sharing knowledge and experiences on conflict management it is important to establish principles of peacemaking in many regions. In fact, communication is a vital tool of the peacemaking.
Overall, religious tourism should play a major role in peace building process in the modern era of globalization. That is why it is necessary to arrange different religious conferences and other events. Religious tourism and communication, which are focused on common features of different religions, can effectively solve diverse conflicts.
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