January 20, 2008.
We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday January 20.2008 at 3pm at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the 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.
As we enter into a new year and gather again with hope in our hearts for new intiatives for reconciliation and peace in the world it is with mixed feelings that I turn to the words of Louis Massignon about Palestine written in 1948. Sadness because so little has changed, or rather so much is even worse than in his time, and joy in knowing that even then there were those, like Gandhi, who gave their lives for a truly humane vision of unity. Gandhi was assasinated just one month before Massignon wrote this essay that he called "Palestine and Peace with Justice". He points to Gandhi's vision for a unified India as an example. He wrote:
"It is not permissable to divide, that is to say to implement segregation between two momentarily opposing elements under the pretext that the method of territorial "relocation" should finally lead to the universal confederation of nationalities, each one concentrated inside its borders. Gandhi would not allow it. ....In Palestine, on the Jewish side, two very highly placed voices demanded unity [as early as] 1893. Achad Ha'am said to Israel, " Why do you pursue the reconstitution of the nation of Israel in the Holy Land without entering into conversation with your Arab brothers who live there"? A very beautiful Arab proverb says, "Aljâr thumma 'Idâr" that is. "first the neighbor, then the house".
Massignon writes that the Muslim saint, Râbi'a, applied these words to the after life. "To her it was more important to love the Master of paradise than paradise itself. What good is it to work with the most powerful technology to build a house in the midst of neighbors who are disturbed by this new construction and are ignored rather than looking to reconcile with them".
Massignon's vision of the Holy Land was as important to hear again today, perhaps over and over again today, as it was in 1948. He wrote:
"This Holy Land must not be an object subject to division by the privileged nations, but the seamless tunic of world reconciliation, an intimate mixture of all peoples, beginning with those who have all the more reason to unite rather than to hate one another; semites, both Jews, and Arabs, sons of Abraham, and Christians, spiritual semites, who must have all denied the cult of idols because these idols are those of perfectly useless crimes: what use in fact is an assassination, as Gandhi said, since the soul is immortal"?
"I believe profoundly that through all the errors and faults, scandals and crimes, the final reality of human history constructs itself with the sum of our definitive personalities, which puts our desire for integral truth and our thirst for superhuman justice at the center of ourselves, and there, unifies and immortalises us.Thus, through time, certain lines of spiritual energy converge, certain threads of stiffening in the texture of events in the universe.
And I believe, very profoundly, in the authentic social influence, throughout the centuries beyond their death, in holy religious personalities, who are at the origins or the crux of these threads of spiritual energy: Abraham, the one who is buried in Hebron, for the problem of Palestine, which depends on the astonishing three prayers that he made for Ishmael, for Isaac and for Sodom; and a man from our time, a saint who was killed yesterday, Gandhi, for the problem of India where he prayed, not only for his Hindu brothers, but for the Untouchables and for the Muslims. I believe that such predestined men inspire us as it is necessary for us to look for the coming of the "kingdom of God", that is to say for peace with justice. I believe that their method is valid, not only for their countries and their time, but for all countries and all times".
((1948 Louis Massignon) P.461-470 Opera Minora (Minor Works) vol.III Dar Al-Maaref - Liban. Beirut 1963).
Some have said that Louis Massignon was a saint, and perhaps that it so, but one thing is certain, he was a prophet because he spoke the truth on behalf of the Divine Word that seeks only to unify the sons and daughters of Abraham and all of humanity.
Peace to you.