November 16, 2014.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Faith Sharing on Sunday, November 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 recent weeks the news has focused daily on the conflicts and violence in the Middle East, including in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in Palestine. Those of us who are believers from all three Abrahamic faith traditions turn to one another in our effort to understand the nature of the conflicts and the meaning for those who are suffering daily in these countries and ask what meaning any of it has for us?

After our last gathering in October one of our Muslim members asked, "What do you say to non-believers?" As Christian and Muslim believers we look at the world and our neighbors from the perspective of our own faith traditions and seek answers. We have questions for each other given that some of the violence and brutality is being perpetrated in the name of religious conviction, usurped to gain political power and control over territory and others.Throughout the Middle East the lives of Christians and other minorities are being so blatantly threatened that the only escape is to leave everything and seek refuge in other countries. The numbers of refugees in this part of the world has reached unimaginable numbers and created a crisis in itself. How are we to respond? Does our effort to share our faith experiences and traditions with one another and pray together for peace and reconciliation help?

We can all agree on the fundamental value of human life and our shared humanity and even that we are called to love our neighbor. But we must go further and ask the question as it is posed in the Gospel. "Who is my neighbor?" Perhaps he is of another faith tradition or no faith tradition at all. And perhaps his religious perspective or political views are abhorrent to me. Jesus is clear in His perspective; "Forgive them for they know not what they are doing."It is easy to love your friends but what about loving those who persecute you for your religious beliefs and practices? We are invited today to ask our many questions of one another and to listen with open hearts and respect for one another. How do we speak to an unbeliever?

Unity as a human concept is ephemeral and given the vast amount of diversity not only in our created natural world but in the amazing reality that every human person on earth is distinctly different from every other, the following effort at coming together to counter adversity is surely the work of the Holy Spirit. In Washington, DC a week ago, the leaders of major Muslim and Christian organizations in the United States formed a Coalition to protect religious minorities in Arab countries and promote peaceful coexistence at the invitation of The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.They have formed this coalition with the stated long term goal "of defending and protecting indigenous Christians and other religious minorities in Arab countries by restoring the historical coexistence of Muslims and Christians and other religious groups as part of the fabric of Arab and Muslim civilization." These are people of faith.

In the statutes of the original Badaliya Louis Massignon wrote:

"We must more than ever live each day among our Muslim brothers at this time when disagreements and growing hatreds risk cutting us off from them, which would cause distress for Eastern Christian communities who would cease to be able to show the Muslims that Christ loves them, through us, who want to love them at any cost, and "mingle with them like salt".

There is much for us to question and reflect upon together as we pray ever more fervently for peace with justice and reconciliation, in our time.

Peace to you.