October 27, 2013.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our shared Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Prayer on Sunday, October 27, 2013 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Pauls Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Interfaith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

As members of Badaliya and the Peace Islands Institute, dedicated to "crossing over" to meet one another as Christians and Muslims, but more essentially, as fellow human beings on the spiritual path together towards the coming Kingdom of Heaven, we cannot ignore the reports that permeate the daily news of conflict and violence spreading throughout the world. Most distressing is the reality that much of the hatred and anger that fuels vengeance and retaliation is based on the exploitation of religious intolerance and the rise of radical militant groups and individuals. Minority Christian communities are being targeted in the name of Islam and millions of Muslim and Christian families are fleeing the violence adding to a worldwide refugee crisis. We are called as Badaliya and empathic human beings to suffer with "the other" to pray for the victims, and the perpetrators of violence, and to simply care. In his letter to members of the Badaliya for the January 6, 1961 gathering Massignon wrote:

"Let us pray that the tears of the dead be stronger than the cries for vengeance."

In our last gathering we paid tribute to Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio's mission in Syria that risked his life as a witness to peace and reconciliation in the true spirit of Badaliya. In reflecting on the mission of his community of Deir Mar Musa, established by Christians to share life with their Muslim neighbors, one of our members asked that we address the question at this gathering of "who is our neighbor?"

In Islamic tradition, especially in the Middle East and the Holy Lands hospitality is a virtue practised in every home. Every visitor is a sacred guest whose well-being is protected by the household. We are reminded of the image of the Patriarch of all three Abrahamic traditions, Abraham, welcoming the strangers at Mamre depicted in the Hebrew scrptures as "angels of God." One of the pillars of Islam is almsgiving, an obligation to care for the poor and disabled. Inviting non-Muslims to share in an Iftar, the breaking of the fast, in Muslim homes during Ramadan is another witness to the virtue of hospitality in Islam.

In the Christian scripture and tradition Jesus demonstrates through his life and his many parables who we, as his disciples, are to embrace as our neighbors. In the Gospel according to St. Luke there is a scholar of the Jewish law who asks Jesus to explain who his neighbor is in the Jewish commandement to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus replies with the parable known as the Good Samaritan in which he shows how the law of love is greater than legalism or any hesitation when confronted with human suffering. The antagonism for religious differences between the Samaritans and the Jews made this parable a poignant choice.

A stranger is a victim of robbers who beat him and leave him for dead on the road. A Priest and a Levite, who are bound by the Jewish law and the commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself, pass by, choosing not to help this poor victim. In contrast, the Samaritan bandages his wounds, carries him to an Inn and pays for his recovery. The compassion shown by the Samaritan for a stranger tells us quite clearly who we are to love as our neighbor.

Massignon had much to say about non-violent response to violent actions and his vision of hospitality. In his letter for the Badaliya gathering on February 2, 1962 he wrote:

"For any gesture of hospitality that is not salvific is worthless, any act of substitution that is not "healing" and liberating is only an illusion, any word of welcome that is not a "resurrection" for the alien is only literature."

If we are truly "made in the image and likeness of God" as the Hebrew Book of Genesis tells us then every human being, of every race, ethnicity and religion is equally loved in the eyes of God. Christians are to see the face of Christ in everyone. Massignon shows how his understanding of the call to the Badaliya prayer of substitution expanded over time. He wrote

"And it is thus that year after year, beyond the Egyptian milieu where we had suddenly recognized in this one soul our "Fellow Man", the ravished Face of Christ, [we went on]to other encounters with the same grace that made us recognize our "fellow man" in other age-old sufferings. At first at the common borders of Islam and Christianity in the Mediteranian, and then beyond to the ends of the earth.The absolute compassion of the Good Samaritan removed us from a detour on the road to Jericho, and thus [led us] to the ecumenical consideration of all humanity in space and time."(Annual Letter XIV)

The letter to the Hebrews in the Christian scripture warns us, "Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels." (Hebrews 13:2)

May we offer our prayers today for an end to war and violence and an ever-growing awareness of how to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Peace to you.