Promoting in Brazil Middle East’s Way of Prophet Abraham

    Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

    Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Some of the objectives of the "Abraham Path Initiative" are promoting cultural exchange and creating a sustainable tourist route for the development and generation of closer ties between the people of the Middle East.

    The project was developed by scholars at Harvard University and led by anthropologist and international negotiator William Ury. "The aim of the project is to promote friendship among people. It is not a religious or a political project, it is about respect," Ury said.

    The anthropologist, who is currently in the southeastern Brazilian city of São Paulo to promote the plan, stated that the tourist route was inspired on the Way of St. James, in Spain, and that the idea is to attract thousands of tourists, as is the case with the European country. "We are not creating anything new. We are just renewing things, shaking the dust off the route," said Ury.

    According to him, the vision of this initiative is to inspire and promote the creation of a route for tourism and pilgrimage retracing the steps of Prophet Abraham, who gave origin to the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), which total 3.5 billion followers worldwide.

    The route, which includes natural beauties and cultural interests, takes the tourists to holy places in Jerusalem, the Ummayad Mosque, in Damascus, the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem (Palestine), Urfa and Harrann, in Turkey, Damascus, in Syria, and Amman, in Jordan.

    According to Ury, people will be able to follow the way on foot, by bus, car and even on camel back. "It is a trip for people of all age brackets and religions," he asserted. The distance from the city of Urfa, where Abraham was born, to the city of Hebron, in the West Bank, where Abraham's tomb is located, for example, totals 1,200 kilometers, the same distance as that of the Way of St. James.

    According to Ury, part of Abraham's path has already been inaugurated, after four years of study. In November 2006, the first steps were taken, as a group of scholars from 10 different countries, including Brazil, traveled to the region. The trip began in Urfa, after which they headed to Syria, Jordan, Palestine and then Israel.

    Since then, the project has been winning new followers and gaining the support of universities. Last month, a group of 20 students from the University of Yarmouk, in Jordan, took a two-week exchange program in a village in the city of Baoun, in the Arab country, in order to question local communities about the project and learn a little more about them.

    Local communities in each region are also part of the project, because they are going to help trace the path along with their leaders. "This is the message of Abraham's Path: to show respect and hospitality toward your visitors," said Ury.

    This week, another college group is going to do an exchange program in Palestine, in the city of Nablus, and there is another Brazilian on the team, from Getúlio Vargas Foundation.

    "Brazilian contribution to the project is essential. In Brazil there is a very great spirit of fraternity and I hope that many Brazilians may follow this route, which is very beautiful and full of hospitality," added the anthropologist, who also recalled the great Arab community in Brazil.

    In future, the route should be expanded to include other Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. "We are going step by step. It is a very great project and one for future generations," said Ury, who wants to organize a group of Brazilians to participate in the project this year.

    According to him, each country should have one organization responsible for the project. In Syria, for example, the project has the support of the Ministry of Tourism, and in the project will be included a visit to the only two cities in the world that still speak Aramaic, Maloola and Sydnaia.

    In Brazil, one of the directors of the project is businessman Salim Schahin, who is the Foreign Trade vice president at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce. "William is the father of this great project that arose to bring us closer together and take more prosperity to the Middle East," stated Schahin.

    July 1st there was a ceremony honoring the anthropologist in São Paulo. Ury also participated in the ceremony closing the First Inter-Religious Course of the Route of Abraham.


    Abraham Path



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