March 3, 2024.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, March 3, 2024 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; for an end to the violence in the West Bank, a ceasefire of the war in Gaza and an end to the war in the Ukraine. Our prayers are on-going for all the victims of the many devastating earthquakes throughout the world and for the many humanitarian groups offering much-needed aid.

As Christians are entering into our 3rd week of the Lenten liturgical Season and Muslims will begin the month long Ramadan Fast next week, we are called to slow down, take time to reflect on our own lives and the events in the world around us through prayer, fasting and alms giving. If this is a time to open our minds and hearts to the words of Wisdom found in the texts of the Bible and the Qur'an, it is also an invitation to open our hearts and minds to the sufferings and challenges of others in our world. and the sense of powerlessness we can feel as a result.

In response to this moment of on-going tragedy in the daily news in our world, our long-time friend, Jacques Keryell, sent a collection of writings on the theme of Compassion by well-known mystics and spiritual seekers from all religious traditions, writers and poets and even a reflection by a professed agnostic, Albert Einstein. At this moment it can easily seem that the one human value that is missing in our public discourse, faced with the stark divisions and polarization socially and politically as well as within and between religious communities, is the experience of Compassion: the capacity to recognize our own humanity in the lived traumatic experiences of others. As Jacque's extensive collection of quotations makes very clear, human beings have been faced with the moral dilemma of how to respond to racial or religious prejudice, xenophobia, injustice and oppression and the resulting rage that fuels vengeance and war throughout human history on earth. Thus, the many efforts from ancient religious to spiritual and secular texts to teach us the path to experiencing our own capacity for Compassion and the pressing need for it.

Compassion is the ground of Massignon's vision of Badaliya that is an outgrowth of his own spiritual journey as a Christian believer and scholar and admirer of Islam. In an email from Abu Dhabi, Father Piotr reminded us that it was on February 9, 1934, exactly 90 years ago, that Louis Massignon together with Mary Kahil made their vows of Badaliya (even before the Pope's approval of the vows themselves and then the Statutes). He wrote: "I think this is a special date for our Badaliya, but also for the entire contemporary Christian-Muslim dialogue in the world."

The theme of Compassion may remind us that there are two liturgical seasons of the Church beginning with Advent/Christmas, that celebrates the Incarnation of God, Divine Love into the fulness of our human experience of life. The second is our Lenten/Easter season that celebrates the willingness of Christ to experience human suffering and the destructiveness of human beings leading to his condemnation and death, an ultimate sign of Compassion for all human suffering. This in turn led to the miracle of Easter Resurrection that becomes the beginning of the Gospel message: Jesus becomes our model of compassionate love for God, ourselves and one another and a demonstrative example of Divine Love for all of us. Massignon wrote:

"Compassion is not simply an act of generosity, but a spiritual path toward understanding universal truth. In feeling the suffering of others we are called to transcend our ego and to enter communion with the divine essence present in every human being."

"In mystical substitution we discover the profound connection that unites all creatures through divine love. It is a mystical experience where the separation between myself and the other is erased making space for a sacred unity where compassion becomes the tangible manifestation of the love of God." (Louis Massignon, Christmas Eve 1956)

Although the Qur'an refers to Mercy it is in the experience of the Islamic Mystics and the Sufi tradition that we find an abundance of references to compassion. Jacques quotes the 8th century Rabia al-Adawiyya:

"Love your brothers and sisters like the brilliance of stars because we are all travelers into the same night. Divine compassion is the lantern that lights the way, a sacred gift that reveals the Light in every soul."

"The key to paradise is compassion towards God's creatures."

The 11th century Persian philosopher, theologian and mystic Al-Ghazalli wrote:

"Compassion for every creature is proof that a heart is living, that it feels the pain and sadness, that it is conscious of others and that it shares their fate."

"Compassion is the language of the soul. It reminds us of our common humanity and invites us to treat every human being with respect and understanding."

Along with the many biblical verses from both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures that speak of the compassion of the Divine for humanity, Jacques quotes the well-known Bengal Indian poet, writer philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore (1841-1941):

"Compassion transcends the barriers of language, culture and religion. It is the universal language of the heart understood by all those who aspire to peace and unity."

The spirit of Badaliya encompasses the experience of compassion and empathy along with the insistence on justice. Thus we can see this manifest in this iconic passage from Matthew 25:31-40 that quotes Jesus' discourse as a call to justice through compassion and empathy for the well-being of others:

"I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, in prison and you visited me."

In answer to the "righteous" who question when they did these things for Jesus, he replied,

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers you did for me."

Perhaps as we continue our Lenten and Ramadan fast we can reflect more deeply on the ways that we listen, speak and act with compassion and fast from the ways that we fail to do so.

It is clear that the lack of compassion for the common humanity of others fuels conflict and aggression. May human beings one day recognize the futility of war, violence and revenge as solutions to conflict in our world and finally join together in working toward peace with justice.

Peace to you,


See for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands