November 15, 2020.

Dear Friends,

Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic we will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday November 15, 2020 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. 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, especially in the Holy Land. And also for an end to the pandemic and recovery of health for the world.

Catholic Christians are coming to the end of the liturgical year that follows the life of Jesus from his birth, to his teaching and ministry to his passion and death followed by his resurrection as Jesus the Christ. This is a story that invites Christians to see the life, death and resurrection experience of Jesus and his teaching as the story of our own lives. It is a story rich in metaphors, parables with multiple meanings and spiritual wisdom that invites us into a faith journey of on-going conversion for a lifetime of reflection and growth.

The very last week-end of the liturgical year is a feast dedicated to the celebration of Christ the King. This is an image from ancient biblical times that may seem quite remote and foreign to us. But two thousand years ago, in the time of early Christianity, emperors and kings were familiar institutions of power and even claimed divinity, demanding the loyalty of faithful subjects. In the Hebrew scriptures, the Israelites, who were commanded to love and worship the One God of Abraham only, begged that God would give them a King like the other powerful nations around them. In the time of Jesus, this small community was once again occupied by the powerful Roman Empire. When Jesus began his ministry by pronouncing that the Kingdom of God was at hand it is not difficult to imagine how his early Jewish followers heard this hopeful message. The irony in this narrative is that a Roman governor, representing the power of the Emperor, a "King", identified the crucified Jesus by placing the title "King of the Jews" above his head on the cross, an instrument of torture meant for common criminals. But the Kingdom that Jesus was inviting his early followers to embrace, was a "kingdom" of God's love for all of humanity. It dwells within the heart and soul of each of us calling us to love one another as God has loved us. A true, "king" brings peace with justice, an end to violence, hatred, war and division and that is why the early Christians were called a "discipleship of equals". Working toward this kind-of kingdom in our world makes us co-creators with Christ the King. The image takes on a deeper and more significant meaning for our time, and all time.

This image of the Crucified Christ ironically identified by a powerful ruler as "King of the Jews" stands at the center of Christian faith. It graphically reminds us that there is no greater love than to offer one's life for another, just as the innocent Jesus has done for us. This sacrificial offering with all its potential for spiritual meaning is the essence of Massignon's Badaliya, or Substitutionary prayer movement.

Beginning with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, November is a month of remembrance for Catholic Christians. Our Latino friends celebrate El Dia de Los Muertos with artistic displays to remember and pray for their beloved dead. This year is especially painful and difficult as so many in the Black and Brown and Latino communities have lost loved ones in the Covid-19 pandemic. Added to this, is the increasing awareness in our culture of the systemic racism that we can also call a "pandemic". To remember, and name, each one of the more than 250 Black lives lost to racial violence this year alone is a beginning for us to find the way to extend our prayers for peace with justice into actions.

Both Islam and Christianity encourage us to strive for peace with justice in our daily lives and in our world. They also both envision an end-time when the promise of that "Kingdom of God" will be fully realized. In both traditions, Jesus' return is essential to this eschatological vision. These monthly faith-sharing gatherings are our opportunity to become an island of peace between Muslims and Christians. The Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen, who inspired so many to found Inter-faith gatherings wrote: "One cannot sing the songs of love with hatred" and "the greatest virtue is to love love, and hate hatred".

The Qur'an states: "If God willed, He could have made you one community, but [He has not] in order to test you with what He has given you. Therefore, vie with one another for good deeds. All of you will return to God. He will then inform you on what you have differed on." (Qur'an 5:48)

"O humankind, we have created you from male and female and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another". (Qur'an 49:13)

In January, 1948 Louis Massignon, a true pioneer in Inter faith engagement, wrote: "I firmly believe that through all the errors and faults, all the scandals and crimes, the final reality of human history will be built on the sum of our definitive personalities. I firmly believe in the authentic social influence through the centuries, and beyond their death, of holy religious personalities. Abraham, the one who is interred in Hebron, for the problem of Palestine that depends on his three astonishing prayers for Ishmael, Isaac and Sodom. In our time, a holy man, killed yesterday, Gandhi, for the problem of India where he prayed not only for his Hindu brothers, but for the untouchables and for the Muslims. I believe that such men were pre-destined to inspire us to know how we should look for the coming of the Kingdom of God, that is to say, for peace with justice. I believe in the goodness of their method not only for their countries and their era, but for all countries and all time".

With the convergence and insecurity of so many life- threatening issues at once and the rise of radical terrorist attacks challenging our world, our island of peace and friendship is to be treasured. Let us pray and work together toward the peace with justice that we long for in our world. May the words from the Qur'an, Gulen and Massignon inspire us and guide us on this shared faith journey.

Peace to you,

Zeki Saritoprak, Islam's Jesus. University Press of Florida. 2014. (p.150) and
Louis Massignon, Écrits mémorables, 2 vol. éd. Établie sous la direction de Christian Jambert, Paris, Laffont. 2009, (p. 734-735)

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