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Witnesses to Faith Sister Clare Carter

Ni'Mat Abdus-Sam'ad Ingrid Askew Cornelia Bailey Horace Clarence Boyer Sister Clare Carter Cain Hope Felder Rachel Harding W.W. Law James Lawson Lena McLin Abiodun Oyewole Charles Sherrod Zohara Simmons Cornel West


Sister Clare Carter

Photo of Sister Clare Carter "There is a legacy of racism in the United States which causes so much pain, and the root of it goes back to the enslavement of African people. The best way to work on making a more peaceful and humane country is to walk consciously and prayerfully." --Sister Clare Carter, before the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage, 1998

Clare Carter is a member of the Nipponzan Myohoji Japanese Buddhist order, which focuses on healing modern civilization from materialism and violence by bringing human beings back to their spiritual foundations. The basic practice of the order is walking, beating a prayer drum, and chanting the prayer Namu-myoho-renge-kyo in order to bring peace into the world.

Sister Clare was inspired to organize the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage while participating in another interfaith pilgrimage in Sri Lanka. That pilgrimage was organized by a monk in Clare's order with the goal of healing the country after years of devastating civil war. While walking in Sri Lanka, Clare couldn't help but think of the destructive forces in her own country. Even as a young girl, she had been aware of the suffering caused by American racism. She was particularly aware that "we (used to at least) frame the race issue as a - as a black problem, or a people-of-color problem. And of course the opposite is true. It's all of our problem. And I thought... if we walk this history, at least for white people, the truth shall make us free."

Despite recognizing the importance of getting white Americans involved in a pilgrimage about slavery, she recognized the need to have African American involvement as well. She asked her friend Ingrid Askew if she would work with her to plan the walk. For Clare, Ingrid's "soul, her spirit, her consciousness as an African American...brought this particular pilgrimage together."

Sister Clare was one of a handful of pilgrims to complete the entire pilgrimage, traveling from Leverett, Massachusetts in May 1998 and reaching Cape Town, South Africa, in May of 1999. Her hope is that the pilgrimage can in some way bring a transformation to America. "There is such a need to move this out," she says, "[this hope] that between the walkers and the hosts and people in general, that this energy, this effort, this spirit, this consciousness will keep moving."

Most recently, Sister Clare has been involved with a series of peaceful demonstrations against the war in Iraq. In December of 2002, she fasted for a week at the White House with monks from the New England Peace Pagoda. She also helped organize the Wake Up for Peace! March, which began in February of 2003 in Western Massachusetts and ended a month later in Boston.