February 15, 2015.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, February 15,2015 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.

On January 19th those of us who live in the United States celebrated the legaacy of a great preacher and social activist, Martin Luther King. A recent film of his famous non-violent people's march in Selma, Alabama to ensure the voting rights of all Americans, including all people of color, reminded many of us of the on-going struggle for human rights and equality, for peace with justice throughout the world. Not just then, but now.

As we enter into the Christian season of Lent we have an opportunity to reflect and to grow in our understanding of the messages passed on to us of the great Biblical and Qur'anic prophets as well as those of the great spiritual leaders of our own time. Lent, like the month long Ramadan fast for our Muslim friends, gives us six weeks to prepare our hearts and minds for the life-changing events of the Easter season through fasting, prayer and alms giving.

We may want to ask ourselves what spiritual experiences motivate anyone to risk their lives for the sake of social change, and the common good? Is there more than just words in Jesus' call to "love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you?" The Reverend Martin Luther KIng was only 39 years old in 1968 when he was assasinated by a radical extremist filled with hatred for racial differences. A stark example of inequality based on the color of one's skin.

It is only through profound spiritual experience of the Divine through prayer and self-reflection that we can begin to open our hearts to the messages of the Prophets from all times and traditions. It is not easy to overcome racism, to value other religions and belief systems or to transform hatred into love.

Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.(Martin Luther King)

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word." (Martin Luther King 1967)

Accused of being an "extremist" in 1963, Reverend King was imprisoned in the Birmigham, Alabama jail. In his famous "Letter from a Birmigham jail" he wrote his reflections on April 16th on this "label" of "extremist".He points to the Jewish Prophet Amos where we see, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ."So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment."

Today our words are "terrorist" for freedom fighter, and "fundamentalist" for extremist. Blessed Charles de Foucauld was "extreme" in his radical love for Jesus and for Islam, as is our friend and spiritual witness, the Jesuit Priest, Fr. Paolo Dall-Oglio. And Louis Massignon was "extreme" in his great passion for all three Abrahamic faith traditions and in his on-going self-transformation into social action through his intense experience of Badaliya. And the Prophet, Muhammad must be counted among them. Aren't all founders of religious faith traditions radical believers in the Divine Lover and Creator of all living beings, including all of us?

As we enter into the six weeks of Lent let us take these messengers of peace and love and hope to heart.

Peace to you.