World Bulletin/News Desk
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will fly to Israel on Wednesday for what is being described as a "spiritual" journey to Christian holy places in the holy land.
"This is not a state visit," Ahmad Gulak, special adviser to the president for political affairs, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
Gulak insisted that the planned trip constituted a "strictly spiritual journey where the president aims to strengthen his faith."
Jonathan will join nearly 30,000 Nigerian Christian pilgrims already in the holy land.
"While there, he will lead the Nigerian delegation in the spiritual exercise and lead prayers for the peace and progress of the country he leads," the aide asserted.
Jonathan will be the first Nigerian leader to visit Israel, though he is not the first Christian to lead Africa's most populous nation, in which Muslims constitute a majority.
The president will be accompanied by at least 19 state governors, along with some of his own cabinet members.
Gulak refrained from answering questions about where Jonathan would stay or who he planned to meet during his days-long visit.
Nor did he reveal whether or not the president planned to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
John-Kennedy Opara, executive secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission, also confirmed to AA that the president was going on "a spiritual journey and not a state visit."
Opara did not rule out, however, that Israeli authorities might accord Jonathan the privileges befitting a serving head of state.
The Nigerian president is expected to attend a special prayer session scheduled for Sunday at 10 a.m. Israeli time.
He will lead Nigerian pilgrims on visits to prominent Christian shrines and perform rites associated with pilgrimage.
Archbishop Nemuiel Babba, who heads up the Nigerian delegation's spirituality and counseling committee, told AA that the president was expected to visit holy sites including Mount Gilboa, Mount Moreh, Mount Precipice and Mount Canaan.
Jonathan will also visit the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where he is expected to kneel before Jesus' biblical birthplace before leaving for the Fields of the Shepherds and Ein Karem, where John the Baptist was said to have been born.
He might also visit the New City of Jerusalem, the Upper Room and the Church of St. Peter, which was built upon the ruins of the Palace of Caiaphas, the high priest before whom Jesus was reportedly brought for trial.
Officials said Jonathan might attend the signing of a Nigeria-Israel Bilateral Air Services Agreement on October 29.
The agreement, which some officials have described as a watershed, will allow direct flights between Israel and Nigeria, along with other mutual benefits.
The deal is expected to ease the current air flight crisis faced by Christian pilgrims to the holy land.
Last Mod: 23 Ekim 2013, 09:32