Beirut – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri launched on Tuesday the first phase of the Religious Cultural Tourism Project during a ceremony, entitled “Celebrating our diversity”, held at the Grand Serail in Beirut.
Hariri stressed during the launch “the importance of this form of tourism in that it contributes to sustainable tourism throughout the year. This form of tourism does not wait for the winter or the summer to arrive or the advent of holidays, but it attracts tourists from all over the world, all year long.”
“This project transcends economic benefits. It would be fitting to call it a national, humanitarian and Lebanese project that goes beyond borders.”
“The ordinary tourist moves horizontally from one site to the other, from one city to the other. The religious tourist does the same, but he also looks for a vertical trip from earth towards heavens, towards the Creator, towards the divine values,” added the premier.
“This project undoubtedly places Lebanon on the international religious tourism map,” he declared.
“At a time when countries are working on starting dialogue between religions, this project highlights to the world that Lebanon has overcome this issue and has become a meeting place for religions and their coexistence,” Hariri stressed.
“It comes at a time when the global trend is focusing on the alleged conflict between Muslims and Christians and the illusory clash between Christianity and Islam. This project demonstrates to the Lebanese and the world that Lebanon is evidence that there is no such conflict or clash. We are all human and believers. We are all committed to our humanity, our legacy, heritage and country, the land of holiness, fraternity and one humanity,” he declared.
Project coordinator Rola Ajouz then addressed the audience, speaking of a comprehensive database of 250 archeological sites out of 2,000 distributed throughout Lebanon.
Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian revealed that Lebanon enjoys over 3,000 religious and historical monuments.
He said that his ministry has devised a strategy to develop the infrastructure of religious sites in Lebanon and rehabilitate tracks that include religious landmarks for various regions and confessions.
“We hope the project will grow to include all religious sites in Lebanon,” said the minister.
Italian Ambassador Massimo Marotti said that the religious tourism project is a product of a joint effort between Lebanon and Italy. It saw the participation of a group of experts from both countries who worked on launching a new idea, which is religious cultural tourism in Lebanon, he explained.
“The project is a message which shows how this land is rich in landmarks that deserve to be known and visited,” he told the gatherers.
“From a country that made cultural and religious tourism a source of knowledge and income, to a country rich in cultural heritage that just needs to be discovered, acknowledged and visited: a message of friendship, a respectful friendship for Lebanon and the Lebanese, who work relentlessly to build their stability day after day. I wish this initiative the success that it deserves,” he said.
In the year 2009, a clause was included in the ministerial statement of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government supporting religious tourism in Lebanon. The “Religious Cultural Tourism Unit” was therefore formed at the presidency of the council of ministers in order to execute the general plan of the project under the supervision and cooperation of the Ministry of Tourism to place Lebanon on the global religious tourism map.