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Church leaders take a virtual hike to the Holy Land

Church leaders of all denominations in the UK will lace up their hiking boots, hoist their rucksacks and gather their laptops on Monday to publicise a unique ‘online pilgrimage’ to the Holy Land, organised by the charity Christian Aid.

Church of England bishops will meet leaders of the Methodist and United Reform Church outside Westminster Abbey at 2.00pm on Monday under a sign pointing the way to Jerusalem and giving the website address www.christianaid.org.uk/pilgrimage that is the gateway to this online adventure.

The virtual ‘Journey to Jerusalem’  transports travellers from their inbox to the lands made familiar through scriptures and contemporary headlines. Pilgrims will get the chance to watch short videos, photo galleries, read stories and pray in the places where Jesus preached. 

They will also meet local Christians, Jews and Muslims living there today, hear their personal stories and hear how the conflict touches the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, and learn how hard many people are working for peace.

The ‘pilgrims’ include the Rt Rev Peter Price, the Bishop of Bath & Wells; Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester; and the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford; Christine Elliot, the Methodist Secretary for External Affairs; the Rev Richard Mortimer, the United Reform Church General Secretary; and Baptist and Christian Aid Intercommunity initiative manager Nigel Varndell. 

Christian Aid director Daleep Mukarji says:  ‘This Lent we challenge you to go beyond hearing about the people in the Holy Land and hear from them instead. Don’t just pray for them, pray with them. If you can’t go to Israel and the Occupied Palestine Territories yourself, go with Christian Aid on a virtual pilgrimage.  We want you to reflect, to learn, to listen and to allow your faith to grow through this very special experience.’

‘Journey to Jerusalem’ opens up the possibility of pilgrimage to those not able to physically travel but who are able to commit a few minutes each day to be inspired, and encouraged by the words of scriptures they will encounter and by the lives of contemporary peacemakers working to end conflict and violence in the Holy Lands.

"I would urge anyone with internet access to pick up their mouse, pack up their preconceptions and travel virtually with eyes and ears open ready to be changed and challenged by what they encounter, "  said the Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford. 

Lent begins on February 25th, 2009.  To sign up to a free online pilgrimage, visit www.christianaid.org.uk/pilgrimage

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For more press information, please contact Kati Byrne on +44 (0)20 7523 2452, mobile 07984 185838 or email kbyrne@christian-aid.org

Notes to Editors:

1. The church leaders will gather close to the memorial to All Innocent Victims of War, Oppression and Violence at the West Door of Westminster Abbey. After the photo shoot, they will walk to Christian Aid headquarters on Lower Marsh to start their online pilgrimage by hearing direct through skype from an Israeli and a Palestinian from organisations that the charity supports in the Middle East, wishing them luck in their journey.

2. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.