January 19, 2014.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Faith Sharing on Sunday, January 19, 2014 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 a part of our mission of Interfaith sharing the members of the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute encourage one another to experience the rituals and liturgical celebrations in our individual faith traditions. Many of us have celebrated the Iftar breaking of the fast dinners during the Muslim month of Ramadan and were therefore honored by seven of our Muslim friends who joined us on Christmas Eve on December 24th for the liturgical celbration of the Birth of Jesus at St. Pauls Church. Sharing our impressions and questions about our Christian and Muslim tradtions and rituals can only serve to enhance our own spiritual lives and deepen our understanding and affection for one another.

In the Catholic Christian tradition the feast of Epiphany that fell on January 5th this year and the following Sunday that celebrates the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist brings the Christmas Season to a close and marks the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. The appearance of three "kings" or wise men from the East, most likely from Persia, who follow a star that leads them to the the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem is rich with symbolic meaning. They represent the "wise" who are seekers of God and witnesses to a manifestation, or epiphany, or a realization of the image of God in the birth of a human child. They come to worship and do homage to this child as to a "king". The gifts that they bring of gold, frankincense and myrrh are a foreshadowing of the future. This child of God will bring the message of the immense love that God has for all of us in the Paschal mystery of the Easter Season to come.

John the Baptist is revered as a prophet in Islam in a line that includes David, Solomon, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Zachariah, John, Jesus and the Prophet, Mohammad. They are all faithful servants of Allah and witnesses for us of the ideal of "submission, or surrender" to the will of God, or "Islam." In Christian tradition John is a radical reformer and preacher who survives in the desert and baptizes his followers in the Jordan river as a sign of repentance for their sins. He recognizes Jesus as the Christ who will baptize his followers in fire and the Spirit of God. The ritual baptism that Jesus requests of John is another symbolically meaningful gesture. Perhaps a "dying" to His "divinity" in order to fully embrace our "humanity" just as we "die" to our own sinful "humanity" at our baptism into the life of Christ when we become Christians. In this biblical scene the spirit of God descends from the heavens in the form of a dove as Jesus rises out of the water, and a voice declares "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased".

In the Qur'an, Surah 19:1-15 the story of Zakariya and the birth of John the Baptist, called Yahya, is told very much like the story we find in the Christian Gospels without naming Elizabeth as his mother. The emphasis is on the righteousness and the wisdom given to John even as a youth.

On display at the famous Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey in the Pavilion of the Sacred Relics can be seen the arm of the prophet, John the Baptist in a silver reliquary embellished with gold. There is also a fragment of the prophet's skull. These are ancient relics preserved in a museum yet with reverent respect for the traditions of the faithful.

May we find much to reflect on in this post-Christmas season that nourishes and inspires our heartfelt desire for Peace with Justice in the Middle East, the Holy Land and throughout the world.

Peace to you.

(See www.dcbuck.com for all past Badaliya letters)