AMMAN — Jordan's Baptism Site was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, to become the fifth site in the Kingdom included in the list after Petra, Quseir Amra, Um Al Rassas and Wadi Rum.
Also known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the site is the location where Jesus Christ is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist.
The decision came on Friday during a World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany, where the panel met to examine proposals to inscribe 37 properties. The World Heritage Committee added three new cultural sites to the World Heritage List this afternoon, according to a statement on UNESCO website. These sites are the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale in Italy; Baptism Site or Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Al-Maghtas) in Jordan and Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia.
“Jordan managed to implement all requirements needed to add the Baptism Site on this list,” Minister of Tourism Nayef Fayez said on Saturday, adding that work should be continuous to maintain the site in this list in the future. He added that the site had been recognized for its religious importance and now it is recognized as a heritage site, which adds more to its significance.
In a statement posted on its website, UNESCO said the Baptism Site, 40km west of Amman, is classified among mixed natural and cultural sites.
A statement issued by The Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) takes utmost pride in the voting which resulted in having the Baptism Site of Lord Jesus Christ added to the World Heritage sites.
CCSM Director Fr. Rif’at Bader on Saturday, July 4, highly valued the noble efforts undertaken by His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein; Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, chairman of the board of trustees of the Baptism Site; the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities; and the Jordan Tourism Board who have exerted unstinting efforts to attain this desired objective.
The statement notes that this is the right time to preserve this world heritage with the support of the global human family, which consequently necessitates concerted efforts aimed at protecting and promoting the Site.
Every year, the Baptism Site is visited by numerous local and foreign delegations and pilgrims (number of visitors in 2014 increased by 8.7% from 2013 totaling 91,555 persons according to Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities) who come seeking tranquility and peace. It is also a source of pride that four popes had prayed at the Baptism Site’s blessed waters during the past 50 years where Pope Paul VI visited the Site in 1964, Pope John Paul II (who had been canonized) in 2000, Pope Benedict in 2009 and Pope Francis in 2014.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan is regarded as one of the holiest places in the world, since it is the place from where the flame of Christian faith was set off to the world to be a message of love and peace for all the human family.