September 18, 2016.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, September 18, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

As we Christians and Muslims gather together today at the start of the academic year our hearts are heavy as we acknowledge the increasing dangers throughout the world that attempt to threaten the foundations of our values of education, intercultural and interfaith exchange, non-violent peace building through dialogue, and mutual respect for our common humanity. We are bound by our vow as Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute members to continue to come together, to pray together and to support one another as witnesses to our belief that Love always conquers evil, hatred and destruction. Let us rise up together and pray that these life-giving values empower those innocent victims of war and violence who are suffering from oppression, persecution, occupation, false accusations, imprisonment and detention and who are forced to flee their homes and countries throughout the Middle East, including the Holy Land, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our Faith traditions teach us to take care of the least among us, to welcome the stranger and feed the hungry and today those include millions of displaced and terrorized children and families seeking safety and refuge. May we open our hearts and stretch out our arms by offering the hope that grounds our lives as believers in a God of Merciful Love and Compassion. As Christians we are taught that we are the eyes and ears and hands and feet of our God continuing to walk on this earth as healers and peace builders.

For Louis Massignon, the depth of meaning in the choice of Badaliya as the name for his understanding of Christian prayer and Christian vocation was also grounded in his knowledge of Judaism and his research in Islamic traditions and Sufi beliefs and practices. The story found in the Old Testament of the Prophet Abraham’s attempt to save the corrupt city of Sodom from destruction by appealing to God’s merciful love had a profound effect on Massignon. What if there are ten righteous people in the city? Surely God would not destroy the whole city. But, as Massignon notes, the ten were not to be found and in his reflections and experience he suggests that the world continues to need and rely on those often hidden few whose life of complete submission to God in prayer and self-sacrificing service to others contributes to the salvation of the whole world.

In an article in “The Foundation” Allen S. Maller points to the folk beliefs that are often incorporated into the faith and practices of traditional religious communities. He wrote: “God’s patience and forbearance with widespread human inequity and sin can be understood in many ways. One explanation, that developed within some parts of both the Jewish and Muslim communities, is that in every generation there are a small number of very special hidden saints ( 60 or 40 Abdal in Islam and 36 or 30 Tsadikim in Judaism,) whose souls are so kind, honest, trusting and righteous, that for their sake alone, the rest of the society of sinful human beings avoids collapse.” These “substitutes”, or “Abdal” arose at the end of the era of the Prophets and Maller writes that when one of them taken from the Muslim community dies, Allah replaces him with another one. ( March/April 2016 p. 53)

Massignon was introduced to this same concept very early in his life when he met with the renowned French writer, Joris Karl Huysmans who was researching and writing a biography of the 14th century Dutch saint Lydwine of Schiedam. To Huysmans, she was one of those chosen by God as a mystical substitute to “ complete what is lacking in the Passion of Christ, the first mystical substitute, as St Paul wrote in the New Testament.
( See Chapter One in my Dialogues with Saints and Mystics: In the Spirit of Louis Massignon, KNP Publications 2002)

Badaliya, an Arabic word whose root letters are the same as the Arabic Abdal, therefore translates as substitution and Massignon chose it as the name of his prayer movement. Substitutionary prayer formed the very foundation of Louis Massignon’s own spirituality as he plumbed the depth of meaning related to Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection in Christianity, and the traditions associated with some parts of both Islam and Judaism.

May we also plumb the depths of meaning of substitutionary prayer in our lives and in our relationships to one another as we continue our monthly gatherings. Let us continue to share our experiences of living our faith traditions as faithful witnesses of peace and reconciliation in a fractured world.

Peace to you,

(See for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)