For Christians the Easter celebration is a time when their most cherished beliefs are honoured.

For those of the Jewish faith it also is a period of deep historical significance. It is the Jewish celebration of Passover, a commemoration of the time when God liberated them from slavery under the leadership of Moses.

Hindus celebrate Hanuman Jayanti on this day, a traditional Lord whose worship brings strength, energy and devotion.

Around the world societies may mark their holidays in different ways, but each brings renewed hope for peace and a better world.

May all of you who read this blog and affix special meaning to these days, find joy in their meaning throughout the coming year.

Around this weekend especially, Christians from around the world will have chosen to make the pilgrimage of their life to Israel, the holy land, where Jesus was born, lived, and died. Others will have made the journey to Italy to hear the words of Pope Francis from his balcony at the Vatican.

As important as they are in the personal beliefs and commitments of the individuals that make these journeys, pilgrimages are an important factor in tourism, regardless of religious background.

Because it is the fifth pillar of Islam to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, this is the largest of all annual pilgrimages.

Known as the Hajj, the dedication to the 7th century prophet Mohammed is still a driving force today, although many say the pilgrimages may have started much earlier.

It is estimated that two million people will travel from far distances to Saudi Arabia for this year’s pilgrimage, plus an additional four hundred thousand or more local Saudis who will also be there.

The year 2017 is likely to see a massive convergence of pilgrims to Germany to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the celebration of the birth of the Lutheran Church by Martin Luther.

 

Sometimes referred to as the Protestant Reformation, it had a seemingly innocuous start when Martin Luther penned a scholastic objection against what was the Catholic Church practise of indulgences. Indulgences were based on the ideas around the absolution and forgiveness of sins, which at some point took on financial overtones.

Lutheranism has spread around the world, and adherents to the church are likely to be descending upon the early places of history in its formation.

 

 

For Germany, 2017 is likely to be a banner year of tourism, and officials have been planning for years how to welcome the visitors with various events that will keep them in the country as long as possible.

India is a large country and its people have become significant populations in many of the world’s nations.

Pilgrimages are common as Hindus frequently seek to gather in the sacred places they refer to as tirthas, with the actual action of going on these pilgrimages as tirtha-yatra.

Many of these places of pilgrimage are around lakes, mountains, or forests. Devout Hindus believe these destinations are the meeting places between heaven and earth.

Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism all have their own pilgrimage motivations.

Pilgrimages have become big business in the world of travel. While associated primarily with religious points of interest, today the concept has expanded well beyond the original meaning of the word.

The year 2014 was the 60th anniversary of D-Day when many thousands of Canadians, including government officials, traveled to France to pay homage to the 45,000 Canadians who died in that war, and the 5,500 who were killed in the Battle of Normandy.

In sharp contrast, but nevertheless serious to those who participate, there are still pilgrimages that take place in organized tours and individual visits to the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where rock star Jim Morrison is buried.

He was only 27 when he died of a presumed drug overdose in 1971, but his memory lives on in the hundreds who still go to France to say good-bye to their idol.

 

Likewise Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis Presley lived and died, still sees large and small group tours come to this place, dedicated to keeping the memories of the ‘king’ alive.

But it is religious sites which attract the majority of organized travel packages for the modern day pilgrim.

There are a number of options for believers to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Others will travel to places like Lourdes in the foothills of the Pyrenees, or Fatima in Portugal to worship at these sites where messages from Christ appeared in one form or another.

Whether your pilgrimage is to your local church or to a distant place, may this weekend bring you peace and harmony.