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Biblical worldview tours for students, visitors and… the city?

Tourism is booming in Amsterdam. With over 7 million tourists in 2016, the city centre is bursting at the seams with increasing numbers of guests.

But with this growth, the infamous image of Amsterdam as a city of drugs and sexual “freedom” seems often to be the primary picture presented and exploited by the tourism industry. We believe God sees the city differently.

One of the core values of YWAM is to view the whole world biblically and so one of the things we’ve been teaching our DTS students and visitors recently is how biblical and non-biblical ideas have impacted our home city of Amsterdam.

By taking students on tours of the city we’ve been able to give them the realisation that a worldview determines how we live personally as well as how we live as a society.

Like any city, conflicting ideas have shaped the city we live in. For example one area we’ve focused on with students is different views of toleration and human rights.

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Amsterdam’s history tells the story of a people coming together in the marshes to build a city of warehouses in order to trade in freedom from the European empires.

In this place where everyone had a financial motivation to work together to keep the water out, disagreements were inconvenient and a culture of practical tolerance was cultivated.

But if one element that made Amsterdam was trade, the other was religion. The story of the Miracle of Amsterdam attracted pilgrims and monasteries and this shaped the faith of the city challenging its leading citizens to hold charity in high regard and to provide for the poorest members of society.

As the reformation took hold, the idea of rich and poor, foreigner and Amsterdam citizen alike being equally in need of God’s mercy also prevented the worst ghettoisation seen in other European cities and led to Amsterdam becoming a city of refuge.

As the twentieth century moved forward, these two views of tolerating people: either because it is practical or because of seeing them as people made in the image of God led to highly different reactions to events from Nazism and the Holocaust to the sexual and drugs revolutions of the 60s and 70s.

YWAM Amsterdam students have found it inspiring to realise how in this and many other ways, what we believe impacts the way we live so significantly. For many of them touring the city has been the highlight of their week of biblical worldview teaching.

But YWAM Amsterdam does not want to keep these tours for themselves: "Once you realise that the whole city can be your classroom, it brings forward the obvious question of why we don’t use this city as a classroom more?"

Why don’t we teach not just our students but the millions of tourists who come through the city about how our beliefs impact the society we have?

Simon Wood

So tours for our students and guests are just the beginning. For the last 2 years YWAM Amsterdam staff have been working on a new initiative aimed towards the tourists that are looking for more food for thought during their visit.

Titled “Look Up Amsterdam”, the team is working to facilitate a tourism, arts and ideas centre out of Samaritans Inn, YWAM Amsterdam’s building across central station and are hoping to see the whole city respond to this higher call.