Tuesday in Holy Week

Posted on April 7, 2020 by Julian Smith

Hello everyone. So here’s a summary of today’s episode from the BBC, concluding this short series of 3 hour-long programmes. Please add your comments to our blog posts for Palm Sunday, Monday in Holy Week and today below.

You will have heard that the overall rate of Covid-19 infection in the UK is declining on any measure; that the lockdown and social distancing is working and needs to continue, however; that there is good news from overseas, with Wuhan for example having had no such daily deaths for the first-time; and that the PM is in hospital and now in intensive care. Naturally we wish Boris and all his family all the best at this time. Keep safe and well all of you.

Episode 3

PilgrimageThe Road to Istanbul Episode 3 of 3

In this last episode, the pilgrims are on the tenth day of their journey and still have 650km to travel to reach Istanbul. Today’s route takes them through more Bulgarian forest in the Rhodope Mountains. The going isn’t easy, and the 1,500m climb takes its toll on the pilgrims. Near the summit, the incline increases, and Edwina and Pauline take a rest, leaving Olympian Fatima to lead Mim, Dom, Amar and Adrian to the very top and a breathtaking view.

Now trekking in a remote part of the pilgrimage, accommodation is limited, and the group must fend for themselves. They set up camp for the night in a nearby field, but erecting tents soon becomes difficult as the sun sets on the pilgrims.

After another night’s sleep broken by the sounds of Dom’s snoring, the group pack up and head on to the small town of Batak. They visit the small orthodox church of St Nedelya, where around 5,000 people were massacred by Ottoman militia looking to suppress a local uprising in the 19th century. The visit shocks the pilgrims and instigates a discussion about conflict in the name of religion and the battle between good and evil.

The following morning, the pilgrims follow the Sultans Trail into their third and final country, Turkey. For Fatima, a Christian, the journey into Turkey is a poignant one as both her biological parents were Turkish. She has never visited before and hopes this pilgrimage will answer her questions around her identity.

With aching feet, the pilgrims arrive in Vize, a small town where a local lady has erected a wishing tree. She invites all pilgrims on the trail to tie a ribbon to the tree and make a wish. Having placed their wishes, Amar discusses the family pressures around his lack of faith with Dom, whilst Edwina shares Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year ritual, with Pauline, Mim and Fatima as the sun sets.

The next day, the pilgrims are back on the road with just over 40 kilometres left to reach Istanbul. They pass through the small town of Sazlibosna, where they are greeted by Fikri, a local man who has been welcoming pilgrims since the trail began ten years ago. After some refreshments, the pilgrims set off on the home straight.

It is not long before they get their first glance of the historic city of Istanbul – an experience that proves hugely emotive for Pauline. Having rested, the pilgrims head into the city, and it is a chance for Fatima to explore what could have been her homeland. Wandering the streets with Mim, Fatima decides to visit a mosque. The visit proves to be a liberating experience and helps Fatima to understand what life could have been like if she had been brought up Muslim.

Meanwhile, the remaining pilgrims visit a cultural centre dedicated to Sufism – a mystical form of Islam where worshippers dress in traditional clothing, play music and chant in devotion to God. The group is met by Busra, who welcomes them and invites them to take part in the communal meal before prayers begin. After an extraordinary feast, the pilgrims join the service, which proves an enlightening experience for atheist Dom.

Over breakfast on their final day in Istanbul, Adrian shares his views on the purpose of pilgrimage, while Amar realises the power people get from religion. Before they leave the city, the group sets off to visit the Suleymaniye Mosque, where Suleiman the Magnificent, after whom the pilgrimage is named, was buried in 1566. But will the journey have changed the pilgrims, and what will they be taking back with them after nearly two weeks on this path of peace?