Timor-Leste launches religious tourism association

Timor-Leste has officially launched a travel association bringing together all religions to promote religious tourism, a sector that the Catholic-majority country is seeking to develop to diversify its economy.

Oct 15, 2021

Timor-Leste religious leaders attend the launch of the Timor-Leste Religious Tourism Association on Oct. 12 in Dili. (UCA News photo/Arlindo Soares via USAID Tourism For All Project


JAKARTA:
Timor-Leste has officially launched a travel association bringing together all religions to promote religious tourism, a sector that the Catholic-majority country is seeking to develop to diversify its economy.

The launch of the Timor-Leste Religious Tourism Association (Asosiasaun Turizmu Relijiozu Timor-Leste), or ATRTL, was held at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Dili on October 12. It coincided with the anniversary of Pope St John Paul II’s visit in 1989 when the country was still under Indonesian rule.

Archbishop Dom Virgílio do Carmo da Silva of Dili and Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, the apostolic nunciature’s chargé d’affaires, joined senior government officials at the launch, which was also attended by representatives of the United States government, which sponsored the association’s establishment.

The move to form the association had been in the pipeline since 2018, and had the support of the American government’s international development agency (USAID) through the ‘Tourism for All’ project in which the country’s religious leaders — Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu and Confucian — set up a working group to explore the potential for faithbased tourism and subsequently organised an international tourism conference.

The new association’s president, Fr Angelo Salsinha, said the development of religious tourism is not primarily for economic reasons but also for strengthening faith and unity among religions.

Therefore, he said, he wants to make sure that respect for religion is a key priority as ATRTL draws up its strategic plan, a feeling shared by leaders of the other faiths represented in the association.

US chargé d’affaires Tom Daley said “faith-based tourism presents a tremendous economic opportunity for Timor-Leste, with a significant number of tourists from neighbouring countries within close reach.”

He added: “It also helps to advance human rights and respect for differences. Building on our respect for religious freedom and diversity, the US Mission to TimorLeste hopes that the association will spur job creation for young people, bring prosperity to communities nationwide, and help Timor-Leste diversify its economy.” --ucanews.com

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