# 24 October 30, 2005.

Dear Friends,

At the kind invitation of the staff at St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge, MA we will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday October 30, 2005 at 2pm in the small chapel in St. Paul’s Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

I have recently been in touch with friends who are suffering from the hurricanes and earthquakes that are overwhelming so many areas in the world. In keeping with Massignon’s own letters, that always included references to current crisis situations, let us join together in a heartfelt prayer for all the victims and their families of the catastrophic recent world-wide natural disasters, including our friends in Louisiana, Guatamala and Kashmir, Pakistan. May our country join whole heartedly in the international relief efforts.

Massignon often mentions that the Badaliya prayer members joined their Muslim brothers and sisters during the month of Ramadan by offering a Mass and praying together in many different churches. They prayed the Fatiha on the feast of the 27th day of Ramadan marking “the Night of Destiny” Leilet el-Qadr, when Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an. We have an opportunity to pray the Fatiha in spirit with our Muslim brothers and sisters, as Massignon did, during our gathering on Sunday October 30th since the 27th day of Ramadan falls on that day this year.

One of the first prayers in the Qur’an memorized very early by every Muslim child, the Surat el-Fatiha is the opening Sura (verse) of the Qur’an. The language of Islam and the Qur’an is Arabic and therefore all Muslims learn to chant the verses in this ancient and poetic language. The Fatiha is a wonderful summary of Muslim belief that God is the Lord of all being, entirely separate from the world yet forever present and aware, providing a Path from darkness into light and a direction for worship and praise:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Praise be to God, the Lord of all being.
The Merciful, the Compassionate.
Master of the Day of Judgement.
It is you alone that we serve,
It is only from you that we seek aid
Guide us on the straight path.
The path of those whom you have blessed.
Not of those with whom you are displeased.
Nor of those who go astray.”
(Translated by Matthew S. Gordon)

I am also mindful that the 43rd anniversary of Massignon’s death falls on October 31st, the vigil of All Saints Day. His passion and conviction about interfaith relations as the key to world peace and reconciliation continues to inspire many individuals and groups around the world including our own Badaliya prayer movement. For that we are grateful to him and to his own mentor Charles de Foucauld who will be beatified on Sunday November 13, 2005 in Rome. Please offer a prayer of thanksgiving for our Brother Charles on that day.

Because Massignon’s world faced so many of the same destructive solutions to problems that we are facing today, in his memory I am quoting his words for our further reflection:

“....as long as one does not put oneself in the other’s place--in the spirit of “badaliya”, of fraternal substitution with the enemy--the world is heading toward a catastrophe, whether it be by justifying counter-torture against terrorist torture or by nuclear tests as an “effort to prevent war”.

In this letter he calls us to pray fervently to Jesus and Mary, Issa and Maryam, that violence in response to violence, and bigger bombs as “prevention of war”, be clearly seen as pure folly. He suggests that we can only recognize this when we are able to recognize ourselves in the “enemy” through Badaliya, substitution.

“Let us pray that the right of asylum, this sacred foundation of all civilizations, may no longer be denied by our beloved country, once so welcoming to all refugees, immigrants and poor...”

In face of the current natural disasters we will surely need to address our approach to refugees and immigrants of these disasters and of continuing national conflicts with open hearts and minds.

May Massignon’s words remind us of the power of prayer and the greatness of God.

Peace to you.