Activity: Structure and Needs

This practice usually needs a lot of financial resource as well as extensive coordination and planning to ensure the success of the activity. Organizers plan international and local trips for local leaders and community members, emphasizing pilgrimage and diversity. International pilgrimage trips are designed to encourage interaction and the building of trust among participants. Local weekend trips feature visits to different houses of worship or different regions, and are designed to introduce local religious leaders to the diversity within their own cities or countries. These local trips are a shorter, more affordable option compared to the international trips that are planned annually.

The dual narrative, dual faith tour brings tourists to a specific area with the intention to explain a conflict from two different angles. Participants successively tour the city assisted by two different guides, each with a different background and a different faith. First, they are taken to places relating to first guide’s community and presented with his point of view on the historical background, life, and importance of these places. Afterwards, they are taken to the same places by the second guide, as well as ones that might be inaccessible to the other guide, where he will share his own perspective. Both guides give the tour within the same timeframe, and present visitors to other people who share similar views.

As to visiting a place of worship, a religious community can open their space a couple of times a month and provide information on what it stands for, what kind of events and celebrations are hosted there, and what principles of the faith in question are. Many people do not have the opportunity to do so, thus having a mosque, a synagogue, or a church open their doors for this specific purpose is a way of welcoming questions and curiosity, which would lead to combatting ignorance.

Regional tours require more resources than the two previous activities. It is structured around the participation of people from different religious backgrounds and different nationalities. For each visited country or region, conferences should be organized to engage in a discussion on the region’s cultural and religious identities. Prior to the tour, interfaith councils and leaders should be contacted to include them and attract a wider audience. The goal is to raise awareness on unity in diversity through cultural identity. The tour can last up to 1 month depending on the chosen area and the number of countries included on the itinerary. Participants must raise funds in order to move from one place to another and shall find accommodation through the members of the hosting interfaith community of each country.

Similarly, visiting a rural area and remote indigenous communities requires a lot of time and resources. Whether one is a member of an indigenous community or not, it is important to make sure that the targeted community does not feel pressured or ill at ease with the idea of greeting strangers in their space. They have to be willing to share their culture and way of life: it is a collective initiative. The experience has to stay authentic for both parties. The city-dwellers would spend a whole day with the community, learning about their way of life and rituals, and reconnecting with their lost roots and cultural identity.  

 

Objectives: Impact and Focus

This promising practice uses travel, both local and international, to encourage relationships and develop trust among participants, who reflect on themes of pilgrimage and their own local context as they encounter new places together, whether international, regional or local.  

The dual narrative, dual faith tour is a promising practice because it engages the tourists in a way that they get to stand in the middle of opposite viewpoints, which would engage them proactively in assessing the different ideas and narratives presented. The visitors are therefore educated through direct contact with the complexities of the situation. It provides them with a unique experience of the place, which could not have been experienced otherwise, and gives each guide and party an opportunity to express themselves in a way that would not necessarily be heard or even made possible through traditional channels of information.

Opening one’s place of worship does not only aim to educate people about religions and what they offer and imply, but also encourage worshippers to learn how to present and educate others about their faith. The more they know, the more they will be able to break down stereotypes. This practice focuses on one religious community sharing their knowledge with a diverse audience willing to learn more about it, to deconstruct prejudice and stereotypes and foster dialogue. Interfaith regional visits create connections between neighboring countries, and shed light on similarities, which enables people to see the broader picture and connect with people living in similar situations. This initiative focuses on the intricacies between religion and cultural identity. Interfaith travel can also promote and support indigenous cultures as well as break down stereotypes, for it focuses on helping city-dwellers reconnect with their origins, their roots and their cultural background. Ultimately, this initiative unites people through their cultural identity and reminds them how close they are to one another, despite their differences.

 

Field Data: Examples and Sources (Activity – Organisation – Location)

1.) World Pilgrims Program and Interfaith Immersion Weekends – Interfaith Community Initiatives – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

The Interfaith Community Initiatives (ICI), based in Atlanta, Georgia, hosts both the World Pilgrims program and the Interfaith Immersions Weekends. The World Pilgrims Program was founded in 2002 with an interfaith trip to Turkey. The ICI now plans a World Pilgrims trip annually, and destinations have expanded to over a dozen countries. Interfaith Immersion Weekend is a version of World Pilgrims, however it focuses on exploring religious diversity in the city of Atlanta.

 
2.) Visit my place of worship – Wekanda Jumma Mosque – Colombo, Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, Colombo, this program was launched at the Wekanda Jumma Mosque in Slave Island in late August 2014. The first tour group was comprised of a group of visitors from the US embassy. Since then, groups of foreign tourists and schoolchildren have benefited from the tours. This has notably increased tourist flow and diversity in the community and helped establish connections with other communities and people outside of the mosque.

 
3.) InterFaith Region – Carpe Diem Interfe – Mexico City, Mexico

Carpe Diem Interfe has created a Central American tour: from Guatemala to Mexico, they have propagated the values of a united Latin America through religious integration and beliefs. Though this part of the world is very Christian, religious minorities seem to integrate rather easily and each faith presents a specific unique identity.

 

4.) Reconnecting with your roots – Awamaki- Cusco, Peru

Awamaki was formed in early 2009 by Kennedy Leavens, from the U.S., and Miguel Galdo, from Peru to support a cooperative of 10 women weavers from Patacancha, a rural Quechua community in the Andes of Peru. Awamaki organizes Community cultural tourism excursions to visit Awamaki’s weaving cooperatives where products can be purchased directly, as well as homestay programs where tourists can experience the daily life and culture of Andean communities.