Pilgrims on the Silk Road

A Muslim-Christian Encounter in Khiva

Non-Fiction - Cultural
312 Pages
Reviewed on 07/22/2011
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Review Exchange Program, which is open to all authors and is completely free. Simply put, you agree to provide an honest review an author's book in exchange for the author doing the same for you. What sites your reviews are posted on (Goodreads, B&N, Amazon, etc.) and whether you send digital (eBook, PDF, Word, etc.) or hard copies of your books to each other for review is up to you. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email, and be sure to describe your book or include a link to your Readers' Favorite review page or Amazon page.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

Author Biography

Walter Ratliff is an award-winning journalist and religion scholar based in Washington, DC. He is currently a religion editor and content manager at the Associated Press. In 2011, he won a gold medal for nonfiction war writing in the Reader's Favorite book awards for Pilgrims on the Silk Road: A Muslim-Christian Encounter in Khiva. He was also the producer/director of the Emmy Award-winning documentary Through the Desert Goes Our Journey: The Mennonite Trek to Khiva. Ratliff earned a master’s degree in Islam and Muslim–Christian Relations from Georgetown, the leading Jesuit university. This followed an M.A. from Wheaton College, an Evangelical institution. He also holds a joint degree in Journalism and Religious Studies from the University of New Mexico.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Laurie Gray for Readers' Favorite

Pilgrims on the Silk Road: A Muslim-Christian Encounter in Khiva by Walter R. Ratliff follows the eastern trek of a small group of Mennonites into Central Asia in search of religious and social freedom. Ratliff weaves the personal letters, diaries and publications of the pilgrims themselves, together with an extensive bibliography of sources into a story well worth reading. The historical account begins in the 1840's, about the time Claus Epp, Jr., a controversial leader in the Mennonite community, was born and concludes with the devastation of the Mennonites in Ak Metchet (now part of Uzbekistan) by Stalin and the Soviet Union's collectivization policies in 1935. The epilogue describes how the author accompanied descendents of Claus Epp, Jr. on a return pilgrimage to Ak Metchet in 2007 in search of healing and forgiveness. They discover that the Muslim Uzbeks remember the Mennonites as fine craftsmen, friendly neighbors and a community devoted to peace.

Ratliff tells the tale through a broad 21st century lens that seeks to include both Christian and Muslim perspectives. For those unfamiliar with Central Asian geography and Mennonite history, the story sometimes feels a bit disjointed because the presentation is not strictly chronological. Ratliff occasionally creates dangling threads, but eventually loops back to include them securely in the overall tapestry. The book exposes the underlying tension between individual freedom and a moral society in a way that is particularly relevant today. There are still Christians who, like Claus Epp, Jr., prophesy that the End Times are near, but few uphold a tradition of nonviolence the way the Mennonites have since the 16th century. Pilgrims on a Silk Road demonstrates what can happen when Christians respond to terrorist attacks by Muslims with peaceful resistance rather than equal, exceeding or peremptory force: the Mennonites and Muslims were able to forge a mutually beneficial relationship based on respect. Ironically, it seems the deepest Mennonite wounds were inflicted not by the Muslims or Russians, but by their own internal doctrinal differences and the judgments they pronounced upon each other.