Pilgrims Re-enact Wise Men's Journey

ByABC News
December 22, 2000, 2:01 PM

Dec. 22 -- Just as the biblical three wise men from the East once did, 15 pilgrims have been traveling across field and fountain, moor and mountain to make it to the Christian Holy Land this Christmas Eve.

Journeying more than 900 miles, the pilgrims, representing seven nationalities from four continents, have been walking from Iraq to Bethlehem for the past three months in what is being called the first re-enactment of the expedition of the three kings or Magi 2,000 years ago.

The trip, called The Journey of the Magi, is being made on camel and on foot, using the original trade routes that connected the Euphrates River in Iraq to the Holy Land in ancient times.

Needless to say, the journey has had its difficult moments. It is not easy to ride a camel, said group leader Robin Wainwright, 59, in November. We count on Jesus.

This time though, the pilgrims have been bearing not gold, frankincense and myrrh, but a message of peace, brotherhood and community work.

The latter, called Gifts of the Magi includes a daily routine of community and humanitarian projects in the countries they traversed including Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

Sponsored by the Holy Land Trust, an American nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of the Middle East, the trip was launched in late September in three ancient cities Hamadam in western Iran, once known as Ecbatana and revered as the site of the tomb of the Jewish heroine Esther; Mosul in northern Iraq, across the Tigris River from the ruins of Nineveh; and Muqaiyir in southern Iraq, once Ur, the early home of the biblical patriarch Abraham.

However, the pilgrims are also conducting a virtual journey, documenting their trip on a Web site that includes daily journal entries, photos, video clips, message boards and resources for parents and educators.

A Cultural Education

One of the goals of the trip is to expose Western Christians to Arab Christians in the Middle East.