On The Road This Summer

Camels on Silk Road

Mid-summer is here, and we have spent the past seven months working hard to spread the word about Pilgrims on the Silk Road. We have lots of great news to share with you about the book and its companion documentary “Through the Desert Goes Our Journey.” One of the most most exciting events happened just last week, when “Through the Desert” won a regional Emmy!

Check out that story and other great developments below. You can also keep up to date with the latest news on our Facebook page.
-Walter Ratliff & the Agile Arts team
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Emmy statuetteTrek Documentary Wins Emmy
NORTH NEWTON – The contribution of Bethel College musicians to a documentary on the Russian Mennonite “Great Trek” to Central Asia in the late 19th century has resulted in a regional Emmy® award.
“Through the desert goes our journey,” the title song for the 2008 documentary co-produced by Walter Ratliff of Herndon, Va., and 2005 Bethel graduate Jesse Nathan of San Francisco, took the award for “Musical Composition/Arrangement” at the Heartland Chapter Emmy® award ceremonies held July 18 in Denver and Oklahoma City.
In Through the Desert Goes Our Journey, the Bethel College Concert Choir sings the hymn. Andy Gingerich, a 2005 Bethel graduate from Albuquerque, also plays the tune on guitar. Named in the award, in addition to Ratliff, Gingerich and Concert Choir director and Bethel Professor of Music William Eash, is 2008 Bethel graduate Dan Graber of Sioux Falls, S.D., who arranged the music for both choir and solo guitar.
Check out the full article here: PilgrimsOnTheSilkRoad.com: Emmy

Camels on the Silk RoadThoroughly Modern Mennonites

In June, I traveled to Bethel College (near Wichita, KS) to present the case that the Mennonites of Pilgrims on the Silk Road played a critical role in the modernization of the Muslim kingdom of Khiva. The Kauffman Museum at Bethel College hosted Uzbek Scholar Diloram Inoyatova and I for a reception. During the conference I was able to reconnect with other Great Trekkers, and became much more acquainted with the community of Mennonite historians.

Learn more about the Mennonites and Modernity conference here:

Camels on the Silk RoadLibraries Pick Up Pilgrims Book
WorldCat now lists dozens of libraries that have purchased Pilgrims on the Silk Road for their collections. This includes Princeton Theological Seminary, Columbia University, UCLA, Fuller Theological Seminary, and many more.
Read a review of the book at Mennonite Weekly Review

Camels on the Silk RoadHarvard Documentary Screening
On April 6, we packed up the family and headed for Cambridge, Mass. to show “Through the Desert Goes Our Journey” at Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions. Dr. Charles Stang, who teaches a course about Christianity on the Silk Road, made the event possible. We had a great turnout for the film and a wonderful discussion afterwards. Some guests who seemed especially knowledgable about Mennonites and the characters in the story introduced themselves later as retired Harvard professors Owen Gingerich (now associated with the Templeton Foundation), and Gordon Kaufman. It was a truly great experience.

Camels on the Silk RoadGeorgetown Article on Journalism Work
In January, I was selected as one of seven alumni selected to write a feature article for the 90th anniversary of the university’s newspaper. I discussed how my experience at Georgetown helped deepen my reporting on Muslim-Christian relations. Here is the opening paragraph:
The classrooms were filled with the lingering haze of gray ash. The metal desks where students so recently listened to lectures were twisted by the heat into grotesque shapes. Blackened bubbles of paint streaked down the walls. The roof was completely burned away. The chalkboards showed a few recognizable marks from the last lessons before riots devastated this seminary in Kaduna, Nigeria.
Check out the full article and video by clicking here.

Thank you for taking the time to read about the developments with Pilgrims on the Silk Road and the companion film “Through the Desert Goes Our Journey.” I would love to hear your comments and questions at walterratliff@gmail.com. I am also available on a limited basis to speak about the story to your class or group. I look forward to hearing from you.

Walter Ratliff
Agile Arts Productions

Pilgrims on the Silk Road: A Muslim-Christian Encounter in Khiva
by Walter R. Ratliff by Wipf & Stock Publishers

List Price: $34.00
Our Price: $27.40

Buy Now

Through the Desert Goes Our Journey
by Agile Arts Productions
Directors:Walter Ratliff
DVD ~ Release Date: 2009-02-05

List Price: $25.00
Our Price: $20.00

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Editorial Reviews:
In Pilgrims on the Silk Road, Ratliff has brought to light a fascinating but little known chapter in the history of European involvement in Central Asia, along the silk road. His portrait of the Mennonite mission to Khiva makes for great reading and an excellent companion to such classic works as Peter Hopkirk’s The Great Game. –Charles M. Stang, Harvard Divinity School

Pilgrims on the Silk Road is a captivating story. The book has planted the Mennonite presence deeply in the encounter with a multi-sided Islamic culture. I cannot think of any Mennonite group buffeted by such a series of cross-cultural experiences-from prophets of millennialism, to Russian imperialism, to the last hurrah of an Muslim Khan. I was impressed with how the Ak Metchet people had so many confrontations with violence to which they responded in a modest, nonresistant way. –Robert S. Kreider, Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Emeritus

Walter Ratliff’s history of the Mennonite Great Trek to Central Asia offers a new angle of vision upon one of the most remarkable events of Mennonite history. Pilgrims on the Silk Road puts the Great Trek into the context of nineteenth-century imperial rivalry and of the Russian conquest of Khiva. The author tells tales of Muslim-Christian cooperation that resonate with meaning in our twenty-first century of religious polarization. Ratliff’s perspective is revisionist without being contentious. I hope this book will find a wide readership. –James C. Juhnke, Bethel College, Emeritus