May 7, 2023.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday May 7, 2023 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 Israel and Palestine, due to the escalating violence there, and for an end to the war in the Ukraine. Our prayers are on-going for all the victims of the three devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Christians are entering the fifth week of the Easter Season, a fifty day journey after the events of Easter Sunday. We call this journey Mystagogia, as it invites us to reflect deeply on the dramatic events of Holy Week, on the meaning of the mysteries revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Christ and to experience with those early disciples of Jesus the accounts of his post-resurrection appearances to them, and to us, on that Easter Sunday and afterwards. We wept with Mary Magdalen at the empty tomb, and rejoiced with her when she recognized him when he called her by name. We walked with the two disciples on their seven mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, listened to him explain the scriptures, the Law and the prophets and psalms that referred to him and recognized him in the breaking of the bread, as we continue to recognize him today.

Perhaps we are unsure, like Thomas in our reading for today when Jesus tells the disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. -------In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. -------If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way. Thomas said to him, 'Master, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?' Jesus replies that he is "the way, the truth and the life" and that "whoever has seen me has seen the Father". (Gospel according to John 14:1-12) Like those early Jesus followers, we have difficulty understanding and trusting, getting stuck on Good Friday as if it were the end of the story, like so many people in our world today. Perhaps we are continuing to walk on the road to Emmaus without recognizing this stranger in our midst; unable to recognize the presence of Divine Love in every person we meet.

Our Muslim community has completed the holy month of Ramadan, that included the commemoration of the Islamic festival of Laylat-al-Qadr, the Night of Power, on April 17th this year. This is the night when the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed by the Angel Jibril, Gabriel, to Muhammad. He was commanded by the Angel, "Iqra! Recite!". The commemoration of the end of the holy month of Ramadan fast is called Eid al-Fitr, the feast of the breaking of the fast, and is celebrated during the first three days of the 10th month in the lunar calendar, called Shawwäl, celebrated this year from April 21-23, 2023. This is a time of celebration and gratitude, visiting with friends and relatives, sharing gifts, wearing new clothes and offering sweets to the children and providing for the poor. As Christians rejoice during the Easter Season, so our Muslim friends rejoice during these days of Eid.

In the spirit of the Badaliya, both the Easter Season and Eid offer us an opportunity to fulfill Louis Massignon's vision of "crossing over to the other" and sharing life with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Massignon's vision is being lived out at Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi, the Monastery of St. Moses, the Abyssinian, in Syria very much as he would have envisioned it; Praying together in Arabic, dedicated to hospitality and immersed in Abrahamic friendship. These are some of the essential aspects of the Badaliya that were, and are, an invitation for Christians living in the Middle East to share life with their Muslim neighbors just as they are for us.

Each month we pray for peace with justice in the Ukraine and for an end to violence as a solution to conflict in every part of the world as the media continues to move on from one to another, leaving more lasting conflicts behind. At this moment, our friends in the community at Deir Mar Musa remain a light of hope in the midst of an ongoing civil war in Syria. Living out the inspired experience of a devoted believer in Jesus and a lover of Islam, their founder and spiritual mentor, the Jesuit Priest, Father Paolo Dall'Oglio has left us a legacy of spiritual insight and wisdom for our time. Inspired by the writings and spiritual vision of Louis Massignon and the legacy of our now canonized Saint Charles de Foucauld. F. Paolo wrote;

"The Orient helped me to understand the value of experience. There, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism all remind us of the importance of lived experience. Even if we are limited, imperfect or powerless we remain indispensable. God is obligated to pass through us to go to others. God loves to incarnate himself for you in me and loves to incarnate himself for me in you. If we refuse to accept that responsibility, then Love disincarnates itself, loses its weight and its flavor."

F. Paolo's entered as fully into the lived-experience of Muslim believers as he did in his vocation as a Jesuit Catholic priest. He found no contradiction in his spiritual experience and vision of "a final harmony in God" of these two faith traditions.

Each month we pray for peace with justice in Palestine and Israel as the grip of the occupation strangles any hope for justice and peaceful resolution, making escalating violence inevitable. During those painful post World War II years with the establishment of the modern State of Israel, Massignon's experience and spiritual identification with what he called "Abrahamic hospitality" along with his conviction that the Holy Land was meant to be " a children's garden of reconciled humanity" was cause for distress. This "return of biblical Israel to Palestine" was a mystery that instead led to the displacement and exile of thousands of indigenous Palestinians from their homes of generations. Massignon had been intimately involved in the British and French partitioning of these lands after World War I that wounded his spiritual insights and vision for these holy lands. He wrote:

"The Holy Land must not be an object to be shared among the privileged but the seamless tunic of world reconciliation, a place of intimate mixture between us all." That image of the seamless tunic of Jesus crucified claimed by the Roman soldiers at the foot of the Cross is ripe with universal meaning and highlights how the spirit permeated Massignon's way of experiencing the political climate of his time.

Taking sides with all refugees from war and violence, political persecution and displaced persons, from the Jews from Europe in 1947 to the Palestinians in 1948, this was a question of hospitality. It was "sacrilegious to abuse refugees and make them into political hostages. - The problem of hospitality dominates every question of peace with justice. As long as we will not treat all displaced persons as guests from God, we will not find a solution" to international conflicts. And finally this example of how his spiritual experience of the Divine permeated his vision of international relations and his love of the land of Palestine:

"I really want to go there, to the tomb of Abraham, the patriarch of believers, Jews, Christians and Muslims, and this is also the first hero of hospitality...I think that the problems at the beginning of humanity are those that will arise at the end, especially those of the sacred character of the right of asylum and respect for the stranger". We are transported to that iconic biblical image of the three angel/ visitors to Abraham at Mamre in the Book of Genesis, the first Book.

Our Badaliya and Peace Islands gathering pays homage to these spiritual guides whose lived experience continues to inspire our relationships with one another and our vision of hospitality as we welcome those many refugees and asylum seekers today and pray together for peace with justice in the Ukraine, Palestine and Israel and throughout the world.

Peace to you,

  1. Guyonne de Montjou. Mar Moussa: Un monastère, un homme, un désert. Éditions Albin Michel (2006) p. 30 (My translation)
  2. Manoël Pénicauld. Louis Massignon: Le "catholique musulman". Batard Éditions (2020) pp. 348-349 (My translation)
  3. Louis Massignon. La Paix dans la justice en Palestine in Ecris Mémorable. (1948) pp. 723, 735, 736 (My translation)
  4. Louis Massignon. L'Occident devant l'Orient. (June 1952) in Ecris Mémorables,1 p. 68. (My translation)

See for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands