From Sept. 11 to 25, I had the rare experience of traveling to 10 states and 17 cities with a van full of imams, rabbis, ministers and a Catholic priest. We piled into a 12-passenger van crammed with suitcases, booklets, brochures and signs and hit the road to bring the message of respectful religious pluralism. Anyone who saw our van knew what we were about, thanks to the images and slogans plastered on all sides of our vehicle.
Clergy Beyond Borders’ “Caravan of Reconciliation” was timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to encourage people to confront the voices of extremism and fear in Judaism, Christianity and Islam and to dialogue with one another. Our clergy reached more than 5,000 people in universities, divinity schools, mosques, churches and synagogues, where we were welcomed and well received with great hospitality. Some people questioned us closely during our public programs and you could hear the tension and frustration in their voices. Sometimes our presence revealed deep divisions between faith communities and unexpectedly brought difficult topics to the surface. But men and women of all faiths expressed gratitude and support and echoed our message of working together across religious boundaries to bring about a more peaceful and just world.
My position of being one of two non-clergy people (and the only non-clergy person for half of the trip) was a unique, rare gift in learning and mostly listening to intelligent and respectful theological conversations. Three of these conversations could be happening all at once between Christians, Jews and Muslims, in addition to my work updating social media, making phone calls to organizers, giving directions and sending e-mails. (Hard to accurately describe, the van was its own chaotic experience filled with positive energy, laughter and prayer.) It was refreshing and reassuring to know that there are genuine, thoughtful, progressive and open-minded clergy who put their words into action and sincerely mean it.
Here are a few photos that capture our trip. (First three photos by Steven D. Martin):