The Reconciliation Walk is an interdenominational grassroots movement of Western Christians,...retracing the route of the First Crusade, apologizing to Muslims, Jews and Eastern Christians for the atrocities of the Crusades -- foremost among them, the misuse of the name and message of Jesus."
The organizers of the Reconciliation Walk are unaware of any previous, " serious effort to repair this damage" caused by the crusades. The first crusaders set off for Jerusalem in 1096-APR, from the cathedral in Cologne. Exactly 900 years later, on Easter Sunday, about 150 walkers departed from the same cathedral. Their first stop was a Turkish Mosque and teaching center. Their leader explained that the walkers had come to apologize for the atrocities committed in the name of Christ during the Crusades. Then they read a letter of apology in German, Turkish and English. They were "greeted with loud, sustained applause." The Imam responded: "When I heard the nature of your message, I was astonished and filled with hope. I thought to myself, 'whoever had this idea must have had an epiphany, a visit from God himself.' It is my wish that this project should become a very great success."
During the Crusades, the entire Jewish population of Cologne was destroyed. In remembrance of this, the walkers went to the local synagogue. Since it was a Jewish holy day, the walkers did not go inside; they prayed and moved on.
Individual walkers joined the group for as few as 10 days or as much as many months at a time. Following the ancient routes of the Crusades, one team passed through France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Slovenia Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Greece. A second team set out from Germany and passed through Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. The teams met at Istanbul, Turkey on 1996-OCT-10. The Deputy Mufti of Istanbul, the Chief Rabbi, the Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch (head of the Orthodox church) and the Deputy Mayer welcomed the team with warmth and appreciation. "In towns and villages, people spilled out of their houses and applauded the team as they passed." They visited countless cities, towns, and villages in Turkey during 1996 and 1997.
In mid-1998, a team arrived in Antakya, Turkey (once called Antioch) on the 900th anniversary of the conquest of that city. By 1998-SEP, they had reached Syria and Lebanon. About 500 participants reached Jerusalem on 1999-JUL-15, the 900th anniversary of the killing of about 60,000 Jerusalem residents and the destruction of the city.
About 2,000 Christians from 27 countries have participated in this walk. Most are Evangelical Protestants. They have worn T-shirts and caps that say "I apologize" in Arabic or Hebrew.
The Reconciliation Walk statement of apology reads:
"Nine hundred years ago, our forefathers carried the name of Jesus Christ in battle across the Middle East. Fueled by fear, greed and hatred, they betrayed the name of Christ by conducting themselves in a manner contrary to His wishes and character. The Crusaders lifted the banner of the Cross above your people. By this act they corrupted its true meaning of reconciliation, forgiveness and selfless love.
On the anniversary of the First Crusade we also carry the name of Christ. We wish to retrace the footsteps of the Crusaders in apology for their deeds and in demonstration of the true meaning of the Cross. We deeply regret the atrocities committed in the name of Christ by our predecessors. We renounce greed, hatred and fear, and condemn all violence done in the name of Jesus Christ.
Where they were motivated by hatred and prejudice, we offer love and brotherhood. Jesus the Messiah came to give life. Forgive us for allowing His name to be associated with death. Please accept again the true meaning of the Messiah's words:
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' "