Pil­grim­age more than just a trip for faith­ful

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - RON PRADINUK

FOR Chris­tians, it is a time when their most cher­ished be­liefs are hon­oured. For those of the Jewish faith, it is a pe­riod of deep his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

It is the Jewish cel­e­bra­tion of Passover, a com­mem­o­ra­tion of the time when God lib­er­ated them from slav­ery un­der the lead­er­ship of Moses. Hin­dus cel­e­brate Hanu­man Jayanti — a tra­di­tional god who wor­ship­ping brings strength, en­ergy and de­vo­tion — on this day.

Around the world, so­ci­eties mark their hol­i­days in dif­fer­ent ways, but each brings re­newed hope for peace and a bet­ter world.

May all of you who af­fix spe­cial mean­ing to th­ese days find joy in their mean­ing through­out the com­ing year.

Around this week­end es­pe­cially, Chris­tians from around the world will have cho­sen to make the pil­grim­age of their lives to Is­rael, the Holy Land, where Je­sus was born, lived and died. Oth­ers will have made the jour­ney to Italy to hear the words of Pope Fran­cis from his bal­cony at the Vat­i­can.

As im­por­tant as they are in the very per­sonal be­liefs and com­mit­ments of the in­di­vid­u­als that make them, pil­grim­ages are an im­por­tant fac­tor in tourism, re­gard­less of re­li­gious back­ground.

In no small part be­cause it is the fifth pil­lar of Is­lam to make a pil­grim­age to Mecca in Saudi Ara­bia, this is likely the largest of all an­nual pil­grim­ages.

Known as the Hajj, the ded­i­ca­tion to sev­enth-cen­tury prophet Muham­mad is the driv­ing force to­day, although many say the pil­grim­ages may have started much ear­lier.

It is es­ti­mated al­most two mil­lion peo­ple will travel to Saudi Ara­bia for this year’s pil­grim­age, plus an ad­di­tional 400,000 or more Saudis.

The year 2017 is likely to see a mas­sive con­ver­gence of pil­grims to Ger­many to mark the 500th an­niver­sary of the Ref­or­ma­tion and the cel­e­bra­tion of the for­ma­tion of the Lutheran Church by Martin Luther.

Some­times re­ferred to as the Protes­tant Ref­or­ma­tion, it had a seem­ingly in­nocu­ous start when Martin Luther penned a scholas­tic ob­jec­tion against the Catholic Church’s prac­tice of in­dul­gences. In­dul­gences were based on ideas around the ab­so­lu­tion and for­give­ness of sins, which at some point took on fi­nan­cial over­tones.

Lutheranism has spread around the world, and ad­her­ents to the church will likely de­scend upon the places of its early his­tory.

For Ger­many, 2017 is likely to be a ban­ner year of tourism, and of­fi­cials have been plan­ning for years how to wel­come the vis­i­tors with var­i­ous events that will keep them in the coun­try as long as pos­si­ble.

In­dia is a large coun­try, and peo­ple of In­dian her­itage have sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tions in other coun­tries around the world.

Pil­grim­ages are com­mon, as Hin­dus fre­quently seek to gather in the sa­cred places they re­fer to as tirthas, with the ac­tual ac­tion of go­ing on th­ese pil­grim­ages know as tirtha-ya­tra. Many of th­ese places of pil­grim­age are near lakes, moun­tains or forests. De­vout Hin­dus be­lieve th­ese des­ti­na­tions are the meet­ing places be­tween heaven and earth.

Pil­grim­ages have be­come big busi­ness in the world of travel. While as­so­ci­ated pri­mar­ily with re­li­gious points of in­ter­est, the con­cept has ex­panded well be­yond the orig­i­nal mean­ing of the word.

Many tours have been or­ga­nized to the ceme­ter­ies of the war dead in Europe. My own mother was a part of one many years ago, when fam­i­lies of fallen Canadian sol­diers were in­vited by the peo­ple of Hol­land to visit the rows of crosses at Holte, and other burial grounds.

Last year was the 60th an­niver­sary of D-Day. Many thou­sands of Cana­di­ans, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, trav­elled to Nor­mandy to mark the oc­ca­sion. At the Juno Beach Cen­tre, Canada’s own Sec­ond World War mu­seum, they paid homage to the 45,000 Cana­di­ans who died in that war and the 5,500 killed in the Battle of Nor­mandy.

In the newly re­fur­bished cen­tre, Cana­di­ans will be wel­comed this year by the thou­sands, as they will be for decades to come.

In sharp con­trast, but nev­er­the­less se­ri­ous to those who par­tic­i­pate, there are still pil­grim­ages that take place in or­ga­nized tours and in­di­vid­ual vis­its to the Père Lachaise ceme­tery in Paris, where rock star Jim Mor­ri­son is buried. He was only 27 when he died of a pre­sumed drug over­dose in 1971, but his mem­ory lives on in the hun­dreds who still go to France to say good­bye to their idol.

Grace­land in Mem­phis, Tenn., where Elvis Pres­ley lived and died, still wel­comes large and small group tours ded­i­cated to keep­ing the mem­o­ries of the King alive.

But it is re­li­gious sites that at­tract the ma­jor­ity of or­ga­nized travel packages for the mod­ern-day pil­grim.

There are a num­ber of op­tions for believ­ers to fol­low in the foot­steps of Christ. Oth­ers will travel to places such as Lour­des in the foothills of the Pyre­nees, or Fa­tima in Por­tu­gal, to wor­ship at sites where mes­sages from Christ ap­peared in one form or an­other.

Whether your pil­grim­age is to a lo­cal place of wor­ship or to a dis­tant place, may this week­end bring you peace and har­mony.

For­ward your travel ques­tions to askjour­neys@jour­neystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is pres­i­dent of Jour­neys Travel & Leisure Su­perCen­tre, and can be heard

Sun­days at noon on CJOB. Pre­vi­ous col­umns and tips can be found at www. jour­neystrav­el­gear.com. Read Ron’s travel blog at www.that­trav­el­guy.ca.

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