Christian Pilgrimage is essentially meant for prayers to be offered at the Holy Sites, which is why it is a spiritual journey that evokes our consciousness as humans who yearn to understand the existential nature of our spiritual being.
So man continuously seek the face of God as long as he lives because the Holy Bible makes us to understand that we are all pilgrims on earth, and we must return to our creator once we are done with the assignment the Lord has called us for.
Christians are desirous to have this spiritual experience of a life time in the Biblical Holy Sites where the Prophets and our lord Jesus Christ walked and lived all through their ministry on earth. Indeed, Christians are eager to follow the footsteps of our Fathers in faith and walk through their path.
Jordan as a pilgrimage destination is replete with many major Biblical sites without which the Bible will be incomplete as many Prophets in the Old Testament began their ministry journey from there before crossing over to Israel.
The avalanche of Biblical Holy Sites in Jordan is awesome; it is better experienced than imagined. The kingdom of Jordan by all intents and purposes is undoubtedly a home to some of the most influential Biblical leaders of the past: Abraham, Job, Moses Ruth, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and Paul to mention but a few.
Jordan remains the Holy Land visited by all of these great individuals, it breathes with the histories recorded in the Holy Bible. Through the words of the Prophets Abraham, Job and Moses in the Bible’s Old Testament. It is imperative to affirm that the original Baptismal site where Christ was baptized is in River Jordan.
It was in Jordan where Prophet Moses journeyed with the Israelites where John the Baptist heralded in the New Testament of the Christian Faith and where Jesus Christ started his ministry with his baptism.
Without mincing words, Jordan is richly blessed with immense Biblical history. This is where Jacob wrestled with the Angel of God, where Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, where Job was tested and rewarded for his faith and where Elijah ascended to heaven.
Jordan is also the land through which Moses led the Israelites on their flight from Egypt, the site of Jesus’ baptism, the gathering grounds of the first disciples and where the Holy Trinity – The Father, Son and Holy Spirit manifested himself.
Jordan as a pilgrimage destination is the land of miracles, where God appeared to the prophets in form of whirlwinds; a cloud of light, an angel or a voice that commanded them to do His will. With a Jordan pilgrimage, pilgrims will have the opportunity to visit Mount Nebo where Moses view the promise land as well as the Dead Sea.
It is therefore instructive to assert that the Establishment Act of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission empowers it to organise, coordinate and supervise the movement of Christians from Nigeria to perform Holy Pilgrimage to the Holy Sites in the world. It is in pursuit of the provision of the Act that the Commission introduced more pilgrimage destinations over time such as Rome and Greece to accommodate St. Paul’s second missionary journey in Greece and also make provision for the catholic faithfuls to visit St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City as well as having Papal audience.
NCPC has continued to explore more Holy Sites over the years to accommodate the yearnings and aspirations of Christians who want to reconnect to their faith. For example, the Commission has licensed and registered the Knights of St. Mulumba of the Catholic Church to enable them perform pilgrimage at the shrine of Mulumba in Uganda in reverence to the martyrs of Uganda.
The Commission will as part of its mandate continue to explore various Holy sites in accordance with its enabling Act. With the advent of the COVID 19 global pandemic in 2019, pilgrimage generally has been adversely affected. For instance, in 2019 about 4.5 million pilgrims visited Israel prior to the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, the following year-2020, Israel recorded zero pilgrims which has never happened since 1,600 years ago.This situation has greatly affected the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims who have not been able to perform pilgrimage to Israel close to two years running.
NCPC with its proactive and dynamic leadership of Rev. Yakubu Pam decided to consult widely with the strategic stakeholders including state pilgrimage leaders and relevant government and non government bodies to take a holistic look at the situation on ground relying heavily on its enabling Act.
After due consultation with the relevant stakeholders, the Commission had approval from the Presidency to embark on State of Readiness visit to the kingdom of Jordan. This strategic visit commenced on 11th April, 2021 and lasted for one week. The delegation comprised state Chairmen and Secretaries of States Christian Pilgrims Welfare Boards, the Chairman of the NCPC Board, Rev. Yomi Kasali, and the Executive Secretary of NCPC, Rev. Yakubu Pam as well as few other board members of the Commission.
The visit was a double edged mission as the Commission’s officials and relevant officials from the Aviation Ministry inspected the pilgrims Aircraft which would be used to airlift intending pilgrims to Jordan for the 2020 pilgrimage Exercise.
The seven day State of Readiness visit to the kingdom of Jordan by NCPC and Christian stakeholders was revealing and amazing so much so that at the end of the fact finding visit, virtually all the stakeholders, particularly the states pilgrimage leaders endorsed and approved the participation of their states in the Jordan pilgrimage.
The life we live is a very dynamic world; the only constant thing is change. The COVID 19 pandemic has introduced a new normal in the world affairs and our Christian pilgrimage is not an exception.
It is instructive to affirm that the decision to embark on Holy pilgrimage to Jordan is a collective decision of strategic Christian Stakeholders after assessing the viability and spiritual relevance of the Holy Sites in Jordan.
To this effect, the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission has commenced vigorous screening of intending Pilgrims to Jordan across the States which is still ongoing. The Commission has successfully screened intending pilgrims of Plateau State, Ekiti, Osun, Enugu, Nasarawa, Lagos and FCT amongst others.
It is equally germane to state that during the visit of the NCPC and its Stakeholders to Jordan on 11th April, this year, Nigerian private pilgrims on pilgrimage were on ground to perform their Holy Pilgrimage.
In the same vein, the Leader of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Primate Elijah Ayodele has sponsored about 41 members of his Church to Jordan for the purpose of pilgrimage. The members it was learnt departed Nigeria on 17th May, 2021 for Jordan. This is to say that the Nigerian Pilgrims are already at home with the pilgrimage opportunities available in Jordan.
Jordan as a new pilgrimage destination by the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission is a welcome development and should be embraced by all stakeholders. We can appreciate the genuine concern of our revered Christian leaders, the Commission and its Stakeholders are strategizing to have a hitch pilgrimage exercise to Jordan by the end of the month, but at the end of the day every Christian pilgrim will have reason to appreciate the Commission for embarking on such a soul inspiring journey of a life time.
The Pilgrimage to Israel is however not cut off completely, but will under conducive circumstances continue with Jordan as addition.
As NCPC prepares to flag off the 2020 pilgrimage exercise by the end of May, all hands must be on deck to make the Commission’s debut pilgrimage outing to Jordan a huge success.
Celestine Toruka, Head, Media & Public Relations,NCPC writes from Abuja