I just finished walking 750 kilometers (470 miles) along the Camino de Santiago. This is an ancient pilgrimage with roots going back over a millennium and was one of the three most important Christian pilgrimages in medieval Europe, alongside those to Jerusalem and Rome. For various political and social reasons, it fell out of favor in the modern age and by the early twentieth century almost no one walked “The Way” (as it is often called). Since the 1980s, however, numbers have gradually increased to the point where there are now over 200,000 people making the pilgrimage every year.
Walking the Camino is an inspiring experience for many, and my recent walk has inspired me to think more about the need for a broader experience of pilgrimage, done in ways that might foster interreligious connections. As it happened, during my first few days walking The Way, Pope Francis issued a video message in support of interfaith dialogue. This comes at a time when numerous groups have been working hard at just such a thing, including Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core, theInterfaith Center of New York, and countless smaller groups. Interfaith is in the air.
Yet, I also think we need to move beyond interfaith “dialogue,” which tends to remain verbal and cerebral, and move toward the physical activities of religious practices, including pilgrimage. We don’t merely need to talk together, we also need interfaith activities, interfaith eating, interfaith art exhibitions, and interfaith walking.