February 16, 2014.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Faith Sharing on Sunday, February 16, 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.

In between the holy days of the Christmas Season and our spiritual journey into Lent and Easter, Catholic Christians honor the faith experiences of various saints and founders of religious communities as well as the singular conversion experience of Saint Paul the Apostle. Known as Saul from Tarsus in modern day Turkey, he was a zealous Jew who was educated by the renowned scholar of Jewish Law, Gamaliel. The scriptures report that this avid persecutor of the early followers of Jesus had a dramatic experience of Jesus Himself inviting him to become a follower. It was Saint Paul whose mission spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ not only to his fellow Jews but throughout the Roman and Greek speaking world of the time.

The Prophetic voices in all three Abrahamic faith traditions call for the need for the conversion of hearts and minds, for a returning to putting God first in one's life. The essential message in all three sacred writings are of God, calling for our return to faith and life in God. We call the Bible, Salvation History. It is the history of God's relationship to humanity and to all of creation. Both Louis Massignon and Blessed Charles de Foucauld had conversion experiences that transformed the trajectory of their lives forever. When Louis Massignon described his own dramatic experience of conversion in Baghdad in 1908 he called it the "Visitation of the Stranger" and said that God broke into his life, throwing him to his knees and awakening him to a total transformation in his life and submission to the will of God. (see Buck Dialogues with Saints and Mystics: In the Spirit of Louis Massignon Ch.2. KNP 2002.)

Blessed Charles de Foucauld wrote that the moment that he knew in his heart that God existed he would have to devote his whole life to Him. He fell in love with Jesus the Christ. For all three, Saint Paul, Massignon and Blessed Charles de Foucauld, this was just the beginning of the process of conversion to which we are all called.

In Islamic tradition this process of conversion has been described as Jihad. In our time this notion of jihad has become so distorted and misunderstood that it has lost its original meaning and even the true meaning of holy war. In 1998 Fethullah Gülen wrote:

"jihad, being a noun in Arabic, derived from the root JHD, means using all one's strength within the power of humans. Therefore, jihad means making an effort to resist every difficulty. Jihad, as a term means the job of attaining one's essence. The internal struggle (the greater jihad) is the effort to attain one's essence by using all one's strength and power and resisting all obstacles; the external struggle or lesser jihad is the process of enabling someone else to attain his or her essence. ....When both of these kinds of jihad are carried out successfully, the desired balance is established. If one is missing the balance is destroyed. The lesser jihad is our active fulfillment of Islam's commands and duties and the performance of what is being expected of one. As for the greater jihad, it is the fulfillment of these commandments with sincerity and conscientiousness; it is declaring total war on our ego's destructive and negative emotions and thoughts, it is a rather difficult and complicated task to perform.... Everything done for God's sake, and regulating love and anger according to His approval, is part of the vast meaning of jihad.... Included in the meaning of jihad is every aspect of life, every segment of society and every effort maintained in order to improve life and society....The greater jihad according to the Prophet Muhammad is the inner struggle of each human person to purify their minds hearts and souls from false assumptions, wrong thoughts and superstitious beliefs, and the effort to worship, seek forgiveness, and purify the heart through acquiring wisdom and knowledge, and by learning the Qur'an."
(Dogu Ergil 2012. Blue Dome Press. Fethullah Gülen & The Gülen Movement in 100 Questions p 94-95)

An Islamic Sufi from Sri Lanka writes about the true meaning of Islam and the path of Sufism. "For man to raise the sword against man, for man to kill man, is not holy war. True holy war is to praise God and to cut away the enemies of truth within our own hearts. We must cast out all that is evil within us, all that opposes God. This is the war that we must fight." (M.R. Bawa Muhaiyyaddeen Islam and World Peace The Fellowship Press.1987 p.44)

As we prepare ourselves to enter into the purifying days of Lent may these reflections help us to allow ourselves to be transformed into the fullness of life that Jesus promises to those who love God.

Peace to you.

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