I will take a stab at another part.
For the crusades, is it true that it was due to Muslims persecuting christians on their way to pilgrimages?
I would like to start this with my own personal views and then try to back it up with links if I can find any.
The Crusades were many more then just the 9 Crusades against Muslims. You could say that the first crusade was the Roman conquest of England and the forcing of the Druids into Christianity. that was done by the Sword. The last notable Crusade was the conquest of the Americas and the forcing of the Native Americans into Christianity. that was far from peacefull, a very common practice was to capture Native American's who did not convert. Baptise them against their will and then execute them before they had a chance to "sin".
Christianity had a long violent history of spreading religion by the sword. Before the the Crusades against Muslims there were the Crusades from England into Germany forcing the various Teutonic tribes to accept Christianity. Then there were the assaults into the Eastern European nations conquering in the name of conversion.
My ancestors, the Lipkas of Lithuania, fought the crusaders for nearly 400 years. Many of the Lipkas and other Tatars are still fighting that crusade.
Now looking at the "9" Crusades against the Muslims which are generaly what is talked about when speaking of the Crusades. Who were they, They were English and Teutonic(German) knights. They were thousands of miles away from Jerusalem. Most of them would have never had a chance to visit Jerusalem or even have a desire to. There were Many Christians living in the Mid-East at that time. None of them had any major problems with Muslims. Many even lived peacefully in Jerusalem. The crusades into the "Holy Land" was not directed only against Muslims. Byzantine and Coptic Christians also came under attack so did the Jews. The crusades were not for the purpose of "saving" the "Holy Land" they were attempts to spread Christianity by the Sword and to reap the spoils of war. The Knights mostly went because of promises of great wealth from the spoils of war.
The Muslims were not attacking Christian Pilgrams, they were fighting in self defence to protect their land, people and religion.
A brief History of Lipkas:
The Lipka Tatars (also known as Belarusian Tatars, Lithuanian Tatars, Lipkowie or Muślimi) are a group of Tatars living on the lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth since the 14th century. They followed Sunni branch of Islam and their origins can be traced back to the descendant states of the Mongol Empire of Ghengis Khan - the White Horde, the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate and Kazan Khanate. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth they initially served as a noble military caste but later they became urban-dwellers known for their crafts, horses and gardening skills. Throughout centuries they resisted assimilation and kept their traditional lifestyle. There are still small groups of Lipka Tatars living in today's Belarus, Lithuania and Poland.
1380: Khan Tokhtamysh, the hereditary ruler of the White Horde crossed west over the Urals and merged the White Horde with the Golden Horde whose first khan was Batu, the eldest son of Jochi. In 1382 the White and Golden Hordes sacked and burned Moscow. Tokhtamysh, allied with the great central Asian Tatar conqueror, Tamerlane reasserted Mongol power in Russia.
1397: After a series of disastrous military campaigns against his former protector, the great Tatar warlord Tamerlane, Tokhtamysh and the remnants of his clan were granted asylum and given estates and noble status in Grand Duchy of Lithuania by Vytautas the Great. The settlement of the Lipka Tatars in Lithuania in 1397 is recorded in the Chronicles of Jan Dlugosz.
1591: The rule of the fervent Catholic Sigismund III (1587-1632) and the Counter-Reformation movement brought a number of restrictions to the liberties granted to non-Catholics in Poland, the Lipkas amongst others. This led to a diplomatic intervention by Sultan Murad III with the Polish King in 1591 on the question of freedom of religious observance for the Lipkas. This was undertaken at the request of Polish Muslims who had accompanied the Polish King's envoy to Istanbul.
1672: This was the year of the Lipka Rebellion. As a reaction to restrictions on their religious freedoms and the erosion of their ancient rights and priviliges, the Lipka Tatar regiments stationed in the Podolia region of south-east Poland abandoned the Commonwealth at the start of the Polish-Turkish wars that were to last to end of the 17th Century with the Peace of Karlowicki in 1699. The Lipka Rebellion forms the background to the novel Pan Wolodyjowski, the final volume of the historical Trylogia of Henryk Sienkiewicz, the Nobel Prize winning author (1905) who was himself descended from Christianised Lipka Tatars. The 1969 film of Pan Wolodyjowski, directed by Jerzy Hoffman and starring Daniel Olbrychski as Azja Tuhaj-bejowicz, still remains the biggest box-office success in the history of Polish cinema.
A brief History of Lithuania:
Baltic peoples: c.1500 BC
During the 2nd millennium BC various Indo-European tribes, speaking what are classed as the Baltic languages, settle along the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. To the north of them are people speaking Finno-Ugric languages, who occupy the modern regions of Estonia and Finland.
The southernmost of the Baltic peoples are the Prussians, who are conquered by the Teutonic Knights and subsequently become absorbed into German culture. But the people in the region between the original Prussia and Estonia retain their Baltic identity. They develop into the modern communities of Lithuania and Latvia.
Pagan Lithuania: 13th - 14th century AD
In the early 13th century the Lithuanian tribes, still pagan, are threatened by two groups of crusading Germans. The Order of the Knights of the Sword are forcibly converting the Latvians to the north, while the Teutonic Knights do the same to the Prussians in the south. The tribal chieftains of Lithuania successfully resist invasion but weigh up the possible advantages of adopting the religion of either of their warlike neighbours - the Catholic Germans or the Orthodox Russians.
A brief History of Early Christian Crusades into England, Germany Eastern Europe:
Two bishops, German of Auxerre, and Lupus of Troyes, were sent accordingly by a council to which the petition of the Britons had been made. These two could speak a language which was near enough to the British to be understood by the Britons, it was something like the Welsh, or the Irish, or like the Gaelic, which is spoken in the Highlands of Scotland (for all these languages are much alike). Their preaching, had a great effect on the people, and their holy lives preached still better than their sermons; they disputed with the Pelagian teachers at Verulam, the town where St. Alban was martyred, and which now takes its name from him, and they succeeded for the time in putting down the heresy.
It is said that while German and Lupus were in this country, the Picts and Saxons joined in invading it; and that the Britons, finding their army unfit to fight the enemy, sent to beg the assistance of the two Gaulish bishops. So German and Lupus went to the British army, and joined it just before Easter. A great number of the soldiers were baptized at Easter, and German put himself at their heads. The enemy came on, expecting an easy victory, but the bishops thrice shouted "Hallelujah!" and all the army took up the shout, which was echoed from the mountains again and again, so that the pagans were struck with terror, and expected the mountains to fall on them. They threw down their arms, and ran away, leaving a great quantity of spoil behind them, and many of them rushed into a river, where they were drowned. The place where this victory is said to have been gained is still pointed out in Flintshire, and is known by a Welsh name, which means, "German's Field." Pelagianism began to revive in Britain some years later, but St. German came over a second time, and once more put it down.
But soon after this, the Saxons came into Britain. It is supposed that Hengist and Horsa landed in Kent in the year 449; and other chiefs followed, with their fierce heathen warriors. There was a struggle between these and the Britons, which lasted a hundred years, until at length the invaders got the better, and the land was once more overspread by heathenism, except where the Britons kept up their Christianity in the mountainous districts of the West,-Cumberland, Wales, and Cornwall. You shall hear by-and-by how the Gospel was introduced among the Saxons.
Source (From a Christian Site):http://bible.christiansunite.com/sch/sch01-24.shtml
A short history of the Crusades against Muslims:
This article is about the medieval crusades. For other uses, see Crusade (disambiguation) and Crusade (definition).
The Siege of Antioch, from a medieval miniature painting, during the First Crusade.Crusades
First – People's – German – 1101 – Second – Third – Fourth – Albigensian – Children's – Fifth – Sixth – Seventh – Shepherds' – Eighth – Ninth – Aragonese – Alexandrian – Nicopolis – Northern – Hussite – Varna
The Crusades were a series of military campaigns of a religious character waged by Christians from 1095-1291, usually sanctioned by the Pope in the name of Christendom, with the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the sacred "Holy Land" from Muslim rule and originally launched in response to a call from the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire for help against the expansion of the Muslim Seljuq dynasty into Anatolia.
The term is also used to describe contemporaneous and subsequent campaigns conducted through the 16th Century in territories outside of the Levant, usually against pagans, those considered by the Catholic Church to be heretics, and peoples under the ban of excommunication, for a mixture of religious, economic, and political reasons. The traditional numbering scheme for the Crusades includes the nine major expeditions to the Holy Land during the 11th to 13th centuries. Other unnumbered "crusades" continued into the 16th century, lasting until the political and religious climate of Europe was significantly changed during the Renaissance and Reformation.
The Children's Crusade was not a military campaign, but a failed attempt to reach the Holy Land in order to peacefully convert Muslims there to Christianity.
The Crusades had far-reaching political, economic, and social impacts, some of which have lasted into contemporary times. Due to internal conflicts among Christian kingdoms and political powers, some of the crusade expeditions, e. g., the fourth crusade, were diverted from their original aim and resulted in the sack of Christian cities, including the the Byzantine capital, Constantinople.