December 4, 2022.

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 December 4, 2022 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Please join us on Zoom, 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 an end to the war in the Ukraine.

This is the first week of waiting, listening, staying awake and reflecting in prayer, that Christians all over the world call the Season of Advent. In the secular culture so many live in today, the season of waiting for Christmas and the celebration itself have become a time for family gatherings and Christmas parties that have little to do with the birth of a child two thousand years ago in an insignificant town occupied by the Roman Empire called, Bethlehem. Yet, the ritual of focusing on the children, the gathering of families and the giving of gifts contains within it a glimmer of the ultimate gift that Christians await, the birth of Divine Love into our world.

Continuing to reflect on the 20th anniversary of the re-visioning of the Badaliya prayer movement for our time and place, we are remembering the beginning, a time during the season of Advent that gave birth to what we have named, Badaliya USA. A year after the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, many religious faith communities were hosting talks about Islam and wanting to learn about the faith of billions of Muslims around the world. Here is the opening of the first email letter inviting participation in our gatherings sent on January, 10, 2003:

"On December 8, 2002, a small prayer group gathered in Boston, Massachusetts in the spirit of the Badaliya, created in Cairo in 1934 by Louis Massignon. We gathered on the Marian feast of the Immaculate Conception which seemed in keeping with Massignon's spirituality as well as that of his friend and mentor, Charles de Foucauld. We came together out of a shared concern for the mounting religious conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Palestine/Israel. By renewing the spirit of the Badaliya for our time we are hoping to encourage mutual respect, understanding and dialogue between Massignon's three Abrahamic traditions here in the United States and wherever others join us in spirit around the world. In the spirit of our friend and guide, Louis Massignon we believe, as he did, that any efforts at reconciliation and social action must begin in prayer".

Massignon wrote the Statutes for the original Badaliya in 1947 in Cairo, Egypt. Remembering that it was here that he received his vocation described as "a desire to heal hearts, broken by the silent absence of God, becoming deaf to the One that seems to them to have retreated from their lives." Hearing these words in 2022 they may remind us of the secular world we live in where so many may feel abandoned by God, especially in war-torn countries like the Ukraine, Iraq and Syria or those who are among the many refugees all over the world seeking safety from violence or poverty.

Massignon went on to describe the first time that he invited Mary Kahil to join him in substitutionary prayer in 1912 and then many years later in 1934 when they met again in Cairo. He chose a small Franciscan Chapel in Damietta, Egypt to make a vow of Badaliya for the well-being of the Muslim community. It was to Damietta that St. Francis went to meet the Muslim Sultan, Malik al-Kamil during the 5th Crusade in 1219. Massignon wrote that it was "the place of the heroic offering of St. Francis for a Muslim soul" and that it was here "that a response to grace confirmed us in the Badaliya,"

The story of Massignon's own spiritual journey and rich legacy as a spokesperson for the displaced, the refugees and oppressed peoples, can speak loudly to us today. His writings before the establishment of the modern State of Israel hoped and prayed that the city of Jerusalem would remain an open and free international city sacred and welcoming of all three Abrahamic faiths. Later he wrote on the plight of the Palestinians who were being displaced from their land in 1948. These writings inspired the dedication of our Badaliya USA faith-sharing gatherings to the Palestinian founder of the Carmelite Monastery in Bethlehem. Massignon named her as the patron Saint of the Holy Land well before Maryam of Jesus Crucified was in fact canonized by the Roman Catholic Church on May 17, 2015.

Massignon encouraged those joining the Badaliya gatherings in groups or as individuals to reflect on the writings of the hermit priest, known at the time as Brother Charles de Foucauld. His own correspondence and relationship with Brother Charles led him to believe that here was a man destined to become a saint. This year, on December 1st the many followers of the spirituality of the desert priest around the world today celebrated a memorial of his death on December 16, 1916 and rejoiced that he was indeed canonized as a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church on May 15, 2022.

We have quoted many passages from our new Saint's writings to reflect on in our past monthly letters. Today, the Little Sisters of Jesus, living the spirituality of St. Charles, are in Jerusalem suffering along with their Christian and Muslim Palestinian neighbors under escalating attacks by the Israeli army. The Sisters wrote in their recent Newsletter that the recent killing of the Arab Christian journalist Shjreen Abu Akleh, as she was covering a military incursion in the city of Jenin in the West Bank brought thousands of Muslims and Christians together to join the procession to her funeral. Tragically they were attacked by the Israeli police and many were injured. She was known as the Voice of Palestine, an American citizen born in Bethlehem, who was loved and respected for her 25 years of honest reporting of life under occupation. This on-going conflict that Massignon foresaw is why we continue to dedicate our Badaliya USA and Peace Islands gathering to the "Little Arab", the first Palestinian to be canonized a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

For many years we have partnered with members of the Boston Dialogue Foundation and more recently with the Interfaith arm, the Peace Islands Institute. Members of Peace Islands are inspired by the Muslim spiritual master, philosopher and educator, Fethullah Gûlen Just as Louis Massignon was nurtured by the life and legacy of the Sufi Saint al-Hallaj, one of the major spiritual and social influences on Gûlen is the philosophy and teachings of Bediûzzaman Said Nursi. He was born in Turkey in 1877 and died in 1960 and was an Islamic scholar who is credited with a revival of Islam in Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Nursi movement has millions of adherents world-wide. He once wrote:

"The magnificent cosmos is a palace that has the sun and the moon as its lamps and the stars as its candles: time is like a rope or ribbon hung within it, onto which the Glorious Creator each year threads the new world".

Gûlen explains his admiration for Nursi as follows:

"The works Nursi produced are a good prescription for those who are searching for answers to their faith-related questions. There are letters which could be characterized as the summary of his correspondence with his students. He had offered there a model of a society without friction, without deviating toward radicalism or violence, without endangering the peace and tranquility of the society. A society based on justice, fairness and respect for all people".

As we enter into the Advent Season of preparation and waiting, let us remember the prayer of substitution that calls us to hold in our hearts and prayers both those who suffer from violence, oppression and persecution and those who are its perpetrators. Today let us pray for our brothers and sisters, Muslims and Christians in Israel and Palestine, and the Ukrainian people, that love and peace with justice always have the last word. The Qur'an tells us:

"Say: We believe in God and in that which had been revealed to us, and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the prophets from the Lord: we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to God we submit".( Qur'an 2:136)

Peace to you,

Louis Massignon: A Pioneer of Interfaith Dialogue: The Badaliya Prayer Movement Edited by Buck, D., Blue Dome Press , NJ. 2016. The Original Statutes p. 1.

Buck D., Dialogues with Saints and Mystics: In the Spirit of Louis Massignon, Chapter One: "The Search for Spiritual Truths: Joris Karl Huysmans and Saint Lydwine of Schiedam" KNP Publications, London, NY 2002. Quotation: p. 38-39

News Notes, Little Sisters of Jesus Fall 2022.

Ergil, Dogu. Fethullah Gûlen & The Gûlen Movment In 100 Questions, Blue Dome Press, NY. 2012. p. 13

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