Jordan Unveils $100M Plan for Biblical Site Where Jesus Was Baptized
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The country of Jordan has unveiled new plans to draw one million Christians to the site that's believed to be the place Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
The Jordanian government will develop the "Bethany beyond the Jordan" area as a site for Christians to visit and worship for the 2,000th anniversary of the baptism of Christ.
The site lies 31 miles west of Amman, the capital of Jordan, and is mentioned in the Gospel of John in the account where John the Baptist declares Jesus to be "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."
"The extraordinary resonance of this landscape... and the significance of that event in human history shakes you to the core," said John Booth, chairman of Britain's National Gallery, who attended a planning event for the site.
The six-year building plan will cost $300 million and a new tourist city will be located adjacent to the site, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.
"We wanted to provide pilgrims a chance to be able to spend quality time at the location of the baptism while respecting its spirituality and the UNESCO World Heritage Site conditions," said Sam Murad, chair of the new foundation created by the government.
"We decided on a biblical village theme that attempts to recreate a 2,000-year-old experience," he added.
Archaeological discoveries that date back to the mid-1900s have uncovered ruins of churches, baptismal pools, and caves that show it was a Christian pilgrimage site as early as the fourth century, Reuters reports.
But the once untouched landscape is now home to a few unregulated churches and buildings.
The current site plans, which are approved by Jordanian King Abdullah II, are an attempt to preserve the site and its ancient history.
"We will supply Arab-style tents and all sanitary services that will provide an authentic feeling," said Murad. "This allows us to be in concert with the theme yet at the same time provide housing at reasonable costs for pilgrims who want to spend spiritual time at this sacred location."
More modern attractions like restaurants, souvenir shops, walking trails, and botanical gardens will lie on the outskirts of the baptismal site.
"We are talking about rustic stones and pebbles in architectural designs that preserve the place's pristine nature and ensure that the sanctity and spirituality that existed 2,000 years ago are not trampled on by any development," Kamel Mahadin an architect told the outlet. "We are not talking about a high-tech landscape."
The first phase of the project is set to be completed by 2023 and the entire project by 2029, which is the 2,000-year anniversary of when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.
The initial phase will cost $15 million and by the completion of the project it is projected to cost as much as $100 million, Religion News Service reports.
"Our initial goal is to raise the needs for the first phase so that people can see and feel what we plan to do," Murad told the outlet.
Nine faith organizations will be allowed to build a place to welcome pilgrims to the baptism site including the Baptist World Alliance which will be in charge of constructing the Baptist outpost in Bethany beyond the Jordan.
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