#Article (Archive)

The pastoral role of the Church in the Tourism industry

Oct 5, 2011, 3:37 PM | Article By: FR. EDU GOMEZ - Parish of the Resurrection, Brikama

Reading through the heading of this article, the reader may discover for the first time that the church has a role to play in the Tourism industry. The church has of course a big role to play wherever people are and wherever people’s lives are affected through travelling and being welcomed. Tourism has to do with travelling and welcoming of people who want to know places other than where they come from.

The church is not a heavenly entity detached from the world but it is part of the world and has the role of leading the every day events of the world to God. According to one of the documents of the mission of the church, Evangeli nuntiandi, no.8, “the nature and mission of the church is to evangelize.” This means that the church exists in order to make Jesus Christ known and loved throughout the world.

In the Bible especially in the Acts 2:5-12 it is recorded that Jerusalem use to be a place where many peoples visited as pilgrims. When the Pentecost event took place there were many visitors there from Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphilia, Egypt and the regions of Libya near Cyrene in North Africa. Now all these visitors were in Jerusalem and they got welcomed and could hear the good news preached to them by apostles and they could hear it by the help of Holy Spirit in their own languages. These visitors valued their presence in Jerusalem as they were welcomed, well accommodated and made to hear the word of God. In as much as this happened and is recorded in the Bible, the church’s primary pastoral role in tourism is to welcome and avail of the word of God to tourists and travelers who leave their countries to other countries.

With this view, the church therefore is a collaborator with any well meaning or recognized association that is involved in Tourism. Every year the church collaborates with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to mark World Tourism Day.  This year the day was marked on the 27th September 2011. The church through the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral care of Migrants and Itinerant people celebrated the day by giving a message. The message was tied to the theme which was, “Tourism linking cultures”.

In its message, the church lends its support to the fact that in Tourism in as much as it is to do with travelling and welcoming, there should be a proper ethics of welcoming. In this, the tourism policies should be fitting to acknowledge the culture of those visiting and those welcoming. This should be well spelt out so that when there is meeting of cultures through tourism then there will be an opportunity of enrichment and avoidance of culture clashes or crisis.

According to the magisterium of the church, there should be an acknowledgement of cultural diversity. Pope Benedict XVI affirms this in this manner, “that once diversity has been accepted as a positive factor it is necessary to ensure that people not only accept the existence of other cultures but also desire to be enriched by them.” The Pope here affirms that if peoples acknowledge the differences in their life styles, relationships, beliefs and values then they can exchange or share the true, good and beautiful things in them.

The church in its pastoral role encourages good cultural exchanges in Tourism and in its history and tradition which is linked up with faith always makes this available. In its pastoral role also, the church always opens its doors to welcome Tourists and visitors who come to churches and admire or study the beauty and history of the structures in the church buildings. Whenever Tourists visit places and countries some of them seek for Cathedral Churches of the countries they visit. In the Gambia, the Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals in Banjul are always places that tourists visit when ever they come during the tourist season.

The church in its pastoral role, avail the times of church worship hours or the celebration of holy mass to hotels. This makes it easy for Tourists and visitors to be able to access worship times in the countries they visit. The tourists would during these times, admire the different forms of worship of the countries they visit or the beautiful religious music they hear. For those who have interest in music, they will learn and add to the volumes of religious music that they would collect.

The Gambia is a secular state that hosts Christianity and other religions and also it is a Tourism destination. For this reason, the local church should collaborate with the Government of the Gambia through the ministry of Tourism. In doing this, it will carry out its pastoral role in Tourism in an efficient manner.

The church also being an authority in faith and morals can guide the ministry of Tourism through the religious moral norms to follow in order to safe guard the Tourism in the Gambia from the abuses that are linked with the Tourist industry. This will make our Tourism in the Gambia to be a unique one secured from cultural and moral harm whilst tourists will enjoy the Gambia, the smiling Coast of Africa.