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Where Christianity was Born

The Jordan River is one of the most sacred places on earth, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. According to the Bible, Joshua led the Hebrews across it to enter the Promised Land, Elijah was beside it when he was bodily taken into heaven, John the Baptist lived and preached on its banks, and Jesus was baptized in it, after which he began his public ministry.

In that sense, Christianity began on the banks of the Jordan River, says the Rev. Nabil Haddad, executive director of the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Center, in a video news report prepared by correspondent Kim Lawton for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a source for cutting-edge reporting at the intersection of religion and society.

Just where on the river's bank these various events took place is a matter of ongoing scholarly and archeological debate

Recent discoveries have focused attention on Wadi al-Kharrar, in the country of Jordan, near the Dead Sea, just over the border from Israel" as the site where all of those events occurred. The wadi also shows signs of a large 5th-century monastery complex that matches descriptions from early European pilgrims of the site where John the Baptist was believed to have lived and baptized, and from where Elijah was believed to have ascended.

Since 2011, the site has been open for tourism and pilgrimages, and the Jordanian royal family have given several plots of land in the area to Christian denominations that have been invited to build churches, guest houses and support facilities.

According to Jordanian-born Rev. Haddad, "As Jordanians we carry this legacy with great pride and faith, and we want all the people to come here and see." You might also be interested in our article on "Building Interfaith Bonds."

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