A panoramic view of the courtyard of the Blue Mosque, in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo/Courtesy of Mohammed Moussa, Wikimedia Commons

Sacred places on my bucket list

By  Melanie Lamarca, Youth Speak News
  • June 10, 2016

With summer fast approaching, students everywhere are itching for the end of the school year, and for many, it’s because there is a much-anticipated family vacation awaiting them. 

For me, travel is always certain to bring one thing: perspective. Whether that’s a newfound perspective on a country, a culture or even yourself, the benefits of travel are endless. What better way to gain that perspective than by visiting some of the world’s most sacred destinations?

One of the most famous Roman Catholic churches is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Having been given the opportunity to see the Vatican, I can honestly say the experience was unparalleled. The white of the walls and columns are pristine, almost blinding. It’s truly a place that humbles you in its size and reverence, the way in which religion humbles the soul. 

Another sacred destination for Christians, Jews and Muslims is Mount Sinai in Egypt. It was on Mount Sinai that God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses. 

At the foot of Mount Sinai is St. Catherine’s Monastery, one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. I think the view from the peak of Mount Sinai truly quiets the soul due to the gravity of the mountain’s past and the vastness of the landscape. I haven’t been there, but I feel like this destination is somewhere that makes you feel small, in a humbling way, reminding you of God’s might. 

There are many sacred places on my bucket list that I would love to travel to, not all of them Christian. 

Tokyo’s most famous Buddhist shrine is the Meiji shrine, dedicated to the souls of Japan’s Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Before entering the gate to the shrine, all must bow. And upon entering the main shrine, visitors remove their shoes. In the Buddhist religion, respect for the spirits of the gods is shown through the visitor’s mannerisms. 

In Islamic history, mosques were always the centre of a community or town. One of the most famous mosques is the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) in Turkey. It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I in the early 17th century, but is well preserved to this day and frequently visited by Muslims earnestly practising their faith.

While each religion may have its own individual and distinct structures of worship, a common thread which binds all religions is the respect and solemnity given to their sacred grounds. 

The interconnectedness of all humanity teaches you to empathize with your brothers and sisters, even if we live an ocean apart. All religions preach the importance of love, and through travel you’ll find an appreciation for life, as the world humbles you in its grandness, vastness and inexplicable wonder. 

(Lamarca, 17, is a Grade 12 student at St. John Paul II Secondary School in Toronto.)

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