Networking! Karov-Qareeb and the International Abrahamic Forum (IAF)

Where There is a Will There is a Way: A Conversation on Pilgrimage and Spirituality“

The International Abrahamic Forum is a global forum for Christians, Jews and Muslim. Since January 2020, Rachel de Boor is member of the Steering Committee that consists in six members from five countries all over the globe. They meet monthly in the virtual space (even before COVID!) to discuss diverse subjects and projects.
In October, they led an international, interactive virtual workshop.   

The workshop reflected our wish to open the conversations in the monthly meetings of the IAF to a broader audience. We chose a topic that is meaningful to Jews, Muslims and Christians in general as well as specifically during the pandemic. Pilgrimage, namely moving physically to various holy places around the world, turned out to be a successful theme/occasion to gather people all around the globe – if not physically in one place, so at least spiritually in one space, and definitely inter-religiously!

After an initial introduction, three members of the IAF Steering Committee presented short inputs as food for thought.

Elena Dini (Italy) explored discussions regarding reasons for and destinations of spiritual journeys over the centuries and focused on the reactions to pilgrimage from Catholic and Protestant Christian communities.

Morteza Rezazadeh (Iran) presented pilgrimage in its function from an Islamic perspective. In Islam, and particularly among the Shi`a, pilgrimage is one of the most popular rituals that is done individually and/or collectively. He brought examples of how pilgrimage is done and spoke about the spiritual meaning of ”visiting the House of God, the shrines of the Prophet Muhammad and his descendants, previous prophets, saints and even visitation of your fellow believers“.

Rachel de Boor presented personal impressions on the extent to which travel restrictions due to COVID-19, still fresh in March, affected the celebration of Pesach/Passover, one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals and how the liturgical declaration „Next Year in Jerusalem“ evokes a bittersweet connection to former generations when the Land of Israel was virtually inaccessible to Jews.

The inputs were designed to show how starting from a common ground by using a subject that matters to members of the three traditions can lead to a fruitful elaboration of differences in practices and experiences – even by members with the same religious background. Our second aim was to open up the discussion to provide participants the opportunity to experience an interreligious exchange offering spiritual impressions regarding other traditions. This was intended also to enable participants move beyond “facts and knowledge” in order to connect between their own experiences of the world and the experiences of others.

For this purpose, each IAF Steering Committee member led a breakout room to provide space for encounters among the participants themselves. Some of the topics discussed include the meaning of pilgrimage in one`s own life, experiences of inter-religious encounters at holy spaces, spiritual needs, the influence of COVID-19 on different communities, new learnings and lifelong questions about the meaning of pilgrimage for other believers and non-believers. The closing round back in the plenary brought up even more subjects and questions, which could have lasted for many more hours. But as our meeting took place in many global time zones, we had to close the space in time, which left everybody – including the IAF Steering Committee – with appetite for more.