Saturday, August 18, 2007

more on the abraham path

"We go to conferences all the time with Muslims, Jews, and Christians, and then we agree on all kinds of things, but we never feel the results on the ground. It's as if I'm running my car engine, but I never take it out of the garage. So maybe it's better if I walk with my own feet."
Dr. Hamid Murad, Jordanian Muslim leader

When Dr. Murad talks about walking with his own feet, he's speaking quite literally about a burgeoning international, inter-faith initiative known as the Abraham Path, a pilgrimage-project that is meant to unite Christians, Muslims and Jews on the journey of their common ancestor: from Turkey down through Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to Israel and the West Bank. Sound ambitious? Then consider that future extensions of the pilgrimage into Iraq (Abraham's birthplace), Egypt (where he sojourned) and - why not? - Mecca are also on the table.

This is all, in the words of a fellow blogster, "either a really good idea, or a really bad one." Several of these countries are at war (declared, undeclared or civil), and travel between them by their own citizens is often forbidden or restricted. Even for foreign pilgrims who can get the necessary papers, safety is a huge concern. But William Ury, the Harvard University conflict-negotiation expert who conceived the project, isn't waiting for conflicts to be resolved on an inter-governmental level. The aim of his pilgrimage is to solve them on a one-to-one basis, as people get out and "walk with their own feet." Besides, says Ury, the infrastructure for the project is already largely in place: "We're not creating this path. This path already exits. In some ways, we're just dusting off the path so you can see the footsteps."

Those of us familiar with the Camino will readily understand what the Abraham Path is trying to achieve in setting people on a single road to a common destination - a road where they will walk and talk and share bathrooms and cooking facilities and morning coffee and listen to each other snore (snoring is the common language of every race and creed) and somehow put up with and maybe even get to like each other; where each of them will be reduced and exalted to the common denominator of pilgrimhood. It's a powerful idea if it can be put into practice. And putting it into practice is what's happening now, with the first leg of the Abraham Path through Jordan scheduled to be ready in spring 2008. (Cautiously) break out your walking shoes!

"There is an old saying that some conflicts are so difficult, only a story can heal them..."
Click here to see a 7-minute RealPlayer video presentation on the Abraham Path initiative.

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