Gaza conflict forces Christian pilgrims to consider Turkey’s holy sites

The two-month-old conflict in Gaza between Israel and Palestine has compelled the Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission to opt for Turkey as the latest addition to its list of pilgrims’ destinations.

“NCPC decided on Turkey because of current challenges in Israel, Gaza and around the Palestinian borders, NCPC’s Executive Secretary, Rev. Yakubu Pam, said in Jos, Plataea State on Wednesday.

Rome and Greece are still on the list for the 2023 pilgrimage.

The Gaza conflict began on October 7 when Hamas fired more than 5,000 rockets into Israel within 20 minutes in what it called the start of “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.’’

Mr Pam said that a similar addition was made at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when Jordan was added to the list of pilgrims’ destinations.

“The commission has visited Turkey to explore the Christian holy sites in the country, which resulted in its choice. The essence of the pilgrimage is to go to divine places where significant things of spiritual relevance had happened in the past.

“There are certain scriptural edifices that are safeguarded in Turkey; one is the site believed by Catholics to have been the burial place of Mary the mother of Jesus.

“It is spiritually-enriching to see the Bible back alive; so we are going to take Nigerian Christians to go there for impartation,’’ Mr Pam said.

He assured that the commission would establish the state of readiness of the pilgrimage sites before the take-off of pilgrims by January and February 2024.

“We will embark on this year’s pilgrimage to Rome and Greece. By December 15 we shall assess the state of readiness. Leaders, we will go to Rome and Greece to look at the places and the tour sites,’’ he said.

He added that the on-going seven-day general staff retreat holding in Jos was designed for self-appraisal of the commission’s employees since they drive its productivity.

“The theme for this year’s retreat is: Leadership transformation for strategic productivity.

“It targets key leadership principles and seeks to explore strategies for heightened productivity by staff of the commission.

“The need for discipline among staff cannot be overemphasised as discipline is the hallmark for achieving excellence on the job. We hope that at the end of the retreat, staff will come out as transformational leaders that can stand at strategic levels of production,’’ Mr Pam stated.