Faith-based travel is on the rise.
Whether it’s the gang from the synagogue doing volunteer work, Christians visiting Jerusalem, Muslims on pilgrimage, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster Book Club’s annual Mediterranean cruise, like-minded people are joining together to hit the road.
Faith-based travel – Travelling with a group with shared beliefs is great. The trouble kicks in when the denizens of your destination don’t cotton to your brand of deity.
Conflict can come up when visitors don’t understand or flat-out ignore the rules of the regions they’re visiting. Need the basics? Start here:
See no evil
Some religious sites are separated by gender. Others don’t allow women.
Hear no evil
Know that in many countries, participating in religious services or activities is limited to members of that faith.
Speak no evil
Keep your trap shut about other religions. Rude at the best of times, many countries prosecute people who criticise the prevailing religion. Proselytising is also illegal in many places.
Religious destinations can be complicated places, for more than religious reasons. Issues include limited access to health services, poor infrastructure, high crime rates, and threats of terrorism.
Before beginning a faith-based trip, it’s important to do some research.
The International Religious Freedom Report, published by the US Department of State, is an exhaustive resource that tackles local laws and customs, how minority religions are treated within a country, stats and more. Viewers can create bespoke reports by selecting a region or country. Peppered with recent and relevant examples of religious freedom violations, the annual report provides hard data culled from all over the world.
Travellers can also contact in-country faith organisations for the local skinny.
In addition to knowing the restrictions of a destination, it’s important for travellers to understand their rights. Check out the Human Rights Watch World Report 2018 for a deep dive into legal rights, and more often, rights violations.
Travellers may not agree with worshippers of other religions, but with the right preparation, they’ll know what to expect.