We will travel by our own effort and intention, from the UK to Jerusalem and Mecca along the modern versions of ancient ways.
Firstly, the Via Romea to Rome, then – into the Eastern domains of the Roman Empire towards Jerusalem – The Via Appia and Via Egnatia to Constantinople and then the Eastern territories of Rome in the Levant.
In making this journey, we remember that we travel to the lands of Abraham, ( إبراهيم, Ibrahim, Aβραάμ), born around 2000 BCE according to Bible scholars, but whose story seems to have originated in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE. His life is fable – but his role as forefather is identified by Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – who maintain his monotheistic covenant with God. Some presume to claim his legend, and land uniquely, to the exclusion of the others. I believe such separation has always been the cause of disaster for humanity.
We remember events 2000 years ago. They were times of hope for a new birth – a Christian birth – freed of tribe or race. Then very much the cutting edge of thought, religion and spirituality – the new Christianity gave birth to the various Churches of Christianity, Western Monasticism and culture . At the time of Constantine, centuries of persecution ended and Rome became a Christian Empire from the Irish to the Red Sea. We are still governed by those histories.
We also remember the life of Mohammed from 57o – 632, and its indelible influence – and the contribution of Islam to all that we are.
Walking and learning
Regula and I met on the Camino Frances. I had decided to walk to Santiago from London and in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port port our small group of four came together and began the communal walk towards the supposed place of St James. Really, it matters not if his bones are there or not! Peter may never have visited Rome, if we divorce the history of the dogma from the history! Abraham certainly is not represented by Genesis.
I walked from London to Santiago, having walked Buddhist and other routes in search of that same prescience. With Regula, Felipe and Timea, we established a rolling community of nations, experience and views, which is hard to repeat. That impermanence of times and relationships too, is life and properly so.
Regula and I also visited the places of the earliest Christian monasticism in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, the places of St Anthony and St Paul. In those times, in Alexandria – all the faiths of the known world gathered together to discuss, argue and influence. Buddhists from India and Bactria (now Afghanistan), with Jewish, “Pagan” and then the early Christian groups.
I have travelled the regions of Spain, where later reviled Moors ruled over a tolerant and advanced society, where all religions could be together in the same space – borrowing and sharing influences. The Conviviencia. How those times have been misrepresented by the Catholic West to justify the cruelty of the “reconquista”.
Why now is the world so divided? Why are the different spheres so deaf and disrespectful to the various others, the shallowness of the Anglo-Saxon nations, the parochialism of the Spanish ones – all so separate and so much the worse for it? America is of course the only great (Christian?) nation, but don’t tell the Communist (Buddhist, Taoist and increasingly protestant) Chinese with their 4,000 year old civilisation! What about the Liberal secular West (which one-religion, one race Israel is so keen to be included in) and its misunderstanding and revilement of Islam. What of Islam’s radicalisation and alienation from the West after a thousand years of Crusade, Colonisation and stagnation? Why are there so many people believing they are unique (maybe true!) and superior (certainly untrue) in faith, culture and fate.
Perhaps the only real mistake is to believe that one belongs to the best faith, or only permanent or special view? What I would call the superstition of greatest nation, religion, or culture. That no one else has a valid view or future? History teaches us only the short-lived nature of such perfecti, and superiors. Impermanence indeed. The human spirit and its desire will not be frustrated indefinitely.
That is not to say that nations groups and individuals have not developed great and special things, systems and qualities, now and in the past! But we cannot sit and rely on our supposed histories or assumptions of superiority. We fail if we do not strive to ensure that the future is as good and as bright as possible for all, regardless of faith, race or culture.
The Pilgrimage to Jerusalem – the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Jerusalem
From the First Century and certainly from 313 with the noted journey of the Bordeaux Pilgrim we know that Christians journeyed to Jerusalem, to the places of the Biblical account. War and Islamic conquest would come, and at times, these routes were used for Crusade, some of it bizarre but more often brutal.
In more recent years, the resurgence of Pilgrimage has included a steady stream of people going from the West to Jerusalem. Brandon and Johanna and others found routes through the Danube and Eastern Mediterranean which are of great antiquity – to seek peace and reconciliation. The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Jerusalem supports those journeys and their intention.
In a journey to Jerusalem we take the best will and intention we can to the work and route of the Abraham Path. The two routes are the same in sprit, and together make something which can assist.
So there is a greater purpose to this walk, which has reconciliation and communality at its heart.
Pilgrimage and this account
Maybe we separate pilgrimage from life too much? In some traditions, pilgrimage is seen as the very process of life – or indeed life as a through time and experience. To make conscious and prescient that process is a bold move – but one which more and more people want to take. Most of us now seek experience, real experience – not rambling and often irrelevant dictates of this faith or that, or this race or that, however, enlightening they may have been in the past? Perhaps even a real spiritual practice, and practicality grounded in the past, but moving alive and communal?
What makes such a walk common, is that anyone of any faith or persuasion will go through the same stages, difficulties and joys on such a walk. It is that – which is our common experience of life. Common to everyone – and in that we have real value.
Some account of the events, however trivial can be of passing interest to any of our brothers and sisters who walk the way. Some effort to explain the events is therefore not wasted.