Do I Have a Witness?

Sister Clare Carter
Sister Clare Carter

An Anglo-Catholic from Massachusetts,who is now a Buddhist nun in the Nipponza Myohoji order, a Japanese Buddhist peace movement, had a dream. Sister Clare Carter, as she is still called, along with Ingrid Askew, an African-American actress and stage director, wanted to commemorate the slave trade of the thirty to sixty million Africans who were kidnapped and taken across the Middle Passage to the Americas.

Their “Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage” left Leverett, Mass. on May 31.Some forty to sixty people, including a dozen Buddhist monks, were scheduled to walk an average of fifteen to twenty miles daily. After walking the East Coast to New Orleans and from there traveling by boat to Brazil, then to Senegal, the American group will be joined in West Africa by another group who walked there from Europe. The combined marchers hope to end the pilgrimage in Cape Town by next May 31 when Archbishop Desomd Tutu, the pilgrimage’s honorary chairman, will greet them.

The American group, a multiethnic, multi-faith group, included Senji Hanaeda, a Japanese teacher, who joined because of the impact of reading a biography of the black abolitionist, Harriet Tubman. Aaron De Santiago, a twenty-six-year-old, left his bookstore clerk job in San Francisco to join because he recalled being led as a child to the grave of his African-born great-great-great grandfather in the South Carolina woods.

The marchers’ flags included that of the African diaspora and Buddhist flags bearing prayers in Japanese characters. Buddhist drummers also joined the 7,000-mile journey.

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