June 24, 2007.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, June 24th from 3:00 pm-4:30 pm 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, in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the midst of the many conflicts in our world especially in the Middle East and the Holy Land we are invited to hold out our hope for reconciliation and non-violent solutions by our call to the Badaliya Prayer.

Our final gathering of Badaliya before our summer break gives us an opportunity to remember the reason we felt compelled to recreate the Badaliya prayer movement five years ago. Here in the United States the tragic events of September 11, 2001 left a feeling of fear and confusion in the hearts of many Americans especially in relation to Muslims and Islam. We turned to Louis Massignon's experience of all three Abrahamic faith traditions and his response to the increasing Muslim population in Cairo, Egypt in 1934 that led to the exodus of Christians from this land where they had thrived for generations. When Mary Kahil, an Egyptian Melkite Christian friend, who had worked with the Muslim women for their rights for many years, complained that her family were becoming so marginalized that they were moving to other countries, Massignon replied that her vocation was to offer her life for the Muslims. In a small Franciscan Chapel in Damietta, Egypt they made their vow of Badaliya.

The original goals of the Badaliya, as written by Louis Massignon helped us to understand how we can adapt them to meeting the needs for understanding and respect, peace and reconciliation in our own communities today. Because we have suffered as a result of our misunderstandings and ignorance of Islam and practicing Muslims, we are called as Massignon wrote, "to practice the highest Christian charity towards them following the precept of our Lord, "To love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you". (Mt.5:44) As Christians we wish to consecrate ourselves to the salvation of our brothers and sisters, and in this hope of salvation, to give faith, adoration and love to Jesus Christ in their name". Our prayer for the salvation of others does not necessarily mean their exterior conversion, but rather that our love and respect inspire others to fully live the call to love the one God of Abraham and one another found in all three faith traditions. Massignon wrote, "Charity consists of an attitude entirely kind, affectionate, considerate, and truly fraternal, as much as prudence permits, in relation to the souls that Providence puts on the path of each one. While the Badaliya does not propose exterior action, its members always look for ways to devote themselves to their Muslim brothers and sisters and will volontarily enter into active organizations that are able to animate the spirit of the Badaliya".

Our experience of the Badaliya prayer has been an ongoing conversion of our own hearts and minds as we have learned more and more about the faith experience of our Muslim brothers and sisters and followed Massignon's lead by acknowledging their holiest days each year and joining our prayers with theirs in spirit. Although we are not proposing any specific outreach, the seeds of interest, knowledge and respect that we have planted are bearing much fruit. Our Badaliya membership includes more than one hundred souls praying in spirit with us each month across the United States, in Canada, India, England, France and Germany. Here in Boston the Committee of Public and Spiritual Concerns at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge invited me to speak on the Challenge of Muslim-Christian Dialogue on December 8, 2006, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The outreach of the Boston Dialogue Foundation, a Muslim organization dedicated to Interfaith relations, has resulted in many of us sharing in their Iftar Dinner celebration at the beginning of Ramadan. They in turn sent many of their members to experience a Mass and reception at St. Paul's. On April 1, 2007 I was invited to speak as a Christian for the Muslim celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which was repeated for The Rumi Club at U Mass Amherst. Both of these talks can be read on my website: www.dcbuck.com.

Our minds and hearts have been stretched and expanded through these and other personal associations with our Muslim and Jewish neighbors and friends. We have been alerted to many organizations working for peace and reconciliation in the United States and around the world, especially in Palestine and Israel.

Our Badaliya prayer this month falls on the feast of John the Baptist. We are invited to renew our vocation as Badaliya, substitutes in Christ, as we too prepare the way for the Lord to bring the Peace and Reconciliation that Christ promises. It is through us that many seeds of hope can be planted and bear fruit, as co-workers in the salvation and healing of our conflicted world, and of our planet earth. May the words of scripture inspire us this day:

" Thereupon Mary set out, proceeding in haste to the hill country to a town of Judah where she entered Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: "Blest are you among women and blest is the fruit of your womb. But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears the baby leapt in my womb for joy. Blest is she who trusted that the Lord's words to her would be fulfilled' ". (Luke 1:39-45)

"...during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God was spoken to John, son of Zechariah in the desert. He went about the entire region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance which led to the forgiveness of sins, as is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

A herald's voice in the desert, crying,
Make ready the way of the Lord,
Clear him a straight path.
Every valley shall be filled
And every mountain and hill shall be leveled
The windings shall be made straight,
And the rough ways smooth,
And all mankind shall see
the salvation of God". (Luke 3:2-6)

Please keep the Badaliya prayer in your hearts this summer and join your prayers to those around the world who are praying for Peace.

Peace to you.