Letter from the Road #18

Path of the Friend

Elias Amidon & Elizabeth Rabia Roberts


On Pilgrimage


Four years ago the two of us sold our house and left on an open-ended “pilgrimage,” expanding on the work we had been doing to include more direct service and engagement with the social and environmental issues affecting the world today. Our pilgrimage follows from a decade of university teaching and thirty years of peace and justice work in the United States and abroad.

As we began these travels we wrote emails to our grown children, keeping in touch and describing our experiences. Soon we were copying these letters to friends, and the list grew. Our friends asked if they could forward the letters on to their friends. This is how “LETTERS FROM THE ROAD” was born, and by the time we returned from Iraq this March there were over 750 names on the list.

Many of you who have recently joined the list don’t have any idea who we are, or the context of our journey. For those of you who are interested, the intention of this letter is to give a brief introduction to us and, if you want to find out more, to direct you to a new website for our non-profit organization, The Boulder Institute for Nature and the Human Spirit: www.boulderinstitute.org.

Over the past four years our pilgrimage has brought us to work with, for example, the indigenous peoples of northern Burma, Buddhist monks and environmental activists in Thailand, the President of Indonesia, Sufi orders in Morocco, Syria, and Europe, the board of directors of the global Nonviolent Peaceforce, and of course the Iraq Peace Team. For most of each year we live outside of the U.S., staying in ashrams, church basements, indigenous villages, small hotels and pensions, and friends’ homes when in the U.S. or Europe. We support our work with grants from small foundations and individual donors who believe in what we are trying to do.

We choose where to go as we feel a “good fit” between our inner call and the invitations we receive from different parts of the world. Also, we tend to go back to an area over several years, building up relations and listening for what wants to happen. We show up sometimes as teachers, sometimes as activists, sometimes as witnesses to the realities of conflict and injustice, and always as friends. Our presence tends to catalyze events in positive and often unexpected ways.

We have called this on-going journey a “pilgrimage” because for us it is intimately part of our own spiritual awakening as well as being a path of service. Maybe these two are the same. Being on the road without a home releases us from innumerable attachments and habits, and makes us accessible to people in ways we could never have imagined. We have learned how we are a part of a vast fellowship working for positive change in the world. In fact, the existence of this email list itself and you caring enough to read this letter, reflects to us this fellowship. In it we are home.

Occasionally friends have asked to travel with us, to learn how we do this kind of service work and how we adapt to an itinerant lifestyle. To make our pilgrimage more available to people in this way, we have scheduled several opportunities in 2003 for those interested to join us on the road. These opportunities are described at our website and also in a written brochure we would be happy to send to you.

One last point that may be of interest to you. Like many of you, we are disturbed by the current U.S. administration’s war-like statements directed at Syria. We have visited Syria several times as part of our pilgrimage, and recognize that the lack of contact and understanding between the Arab Muslim world and the West only increases the chances of suffering and war. In an effort to bridge this lack of understanding we have initiated a program of Interfaith Pilgrimages of Peace to Syria. The first took place in May, 2002, and two more pilgrimages are being planned for the fall of 2003, and more in 2004. You can find details about these journeys on our website or by sending us your postal address by a return email.

Your commitment to peace and justice is an integral part of the world’s self-healing process. We hope these LETTERS FROM THE ROAD may serve in some small way the particular medicine you bring.

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