Jordan plans to attract 1 million visitors to revamped Jesus baptism site in 2030
Jordanian authorities recently announced a $100 million plan to attract more than 1 million Christian pilgrims to the site of Jesus' baptism in 2030, officially known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
The UNESCO World Heritage site currently attracts around 200,000 visitors per year, however, Jordan hopes to drastically increase that number to coincide with the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus' baptism.
Known locally as Al-Maghtas, the site sits along the River Jordan and was discovered after a normalisation deal between Jordan and Israel.
King Abdullah II unveiled the Al-Maghtas development plan in December, which aims to create a biblical village and the region's largest Christian pilgrimage centre, according to the BBC.
The plan also includes a 340-acre baptism zone, glamping-style lodgings and eateries, a bird sanctuary and an agricultural area.
Samir Murad, the project chairman, told the BBC that the development will respect the site's historical and religious significance.
"It would be foolish and unwise to try and create a touristic destination that's based on commercialisation and theme park-type issues in a site so holy," Murad said.
"Let's remember this is the third-holiest site in Christianity. This is the site where Jesus got his calling and so it would be highly inappropriate, if you will, to corrupt it or violate in any way."
Jordan is appealing to international donors, including governments and religious organisations, to help fund the plans.
Jordan, a Muslim-majority country, has a small Christian minority of around 2.5 percent of its population. The country has long prided itself as being home to religious sites revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews.
However, Jordanian authorities recently came under fire over the removal of a statue of Jesus from a road in the Christian-majority town of Fuheis. The removal followed complaints from Muslim residents of the area.
A few days after King Abdullah expressed 2 @CNN he’s proud of “historical Christian heritage n Jordan and the relationship btwn Christianity&Islam,” authorities n Jordan removed a statue of Jesus Christ from Fuheis (Christian majority city)following complaints by Muslim residents pic.twitter.com/GizI0dArRE— Taghreed Risheq (@taghreedrisheq) January 14, 2023
Activists took to social media in recent days to highlight the action, contrasting it with King Abdullah's rhetoric on protecting Christian religious sites and symbols.
The statue, which was erected last year, will now be moved to a nearby Christian cemetery, according to Jordan News.