September 21,2008.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday September 21, 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.

Following in the tradition expressed in Louis Massignon's letters to members of the Badaliya, we are invited to honor the Holy Days celebrated this month by our Jewish and Muslim friends and neighbors. The month long fast of Ramadan began at sundown on September 1st and Muslims worldwide fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset. Breaking their fast with communal dinners that celebrate their community and friendships, Muslims are encouraged to reconcile their conflicts with others, modeling the mercy and compassion of God, and to use this time to reflect on their lives of faith. Louis Massignon joined with his Muslim friends in prayer and fasting for the month and many of us have been invited to share the Iftar dinners (breaking of the fast) with members of the Muslim community. September 30th begins the Jewish feast of Rosh Hashanna followed by Yom Kippur in early October. Let us pray for peace and reconciliation with our brothers and sisters as they celebrate their Holy Days.

When Louis Massignon began the Badaliya prayer movement in Cairo in 1934 Christians were feeling marginalized and leaving Egypt due to the political and religious rise of Islam. The Badaliya prayer group was establishd to encourage Christians to stay in Egypt by praying together and coming to know and befriend their Muslim neighbors.By 1934 Massignon had already written and spoken extensively of the need for Muslims, Christians and Jews to recognize their common heritage in the biblical figure of Abraham, who was a gentile who came from Ur in present day Irak, and whose faith in one God led to the founding of all three religious communities. Today all three communities suffer from the conflicts in the Middle East and once again Christians are disappearing from the Holy Land where Christ was born, prayed and preached, and walked the earth in Galilee; Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem.

Massignon's words are as relevant to the current position of our Arab Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters and their Muslim neighbors as they were when he wrote them in 1948.

"We must admit that if there is a country where the temporal must bow before the spiritual in order to realize our need for world unity, it is certainly Palestine". (The Question of Palestine in Opera Minora p. 464)

"For Christians the Holy Land is not an archeological holiday, it is the homeland of souls, even before death." (p.467)

"Today...North West Galilee is particularly threatened. I know this purely Arab Galilee with its large patriarchal villages, so poor, Sunni, Druze or Christian....Abellin, Cana, Reina and Nazareth. Abellin is the homeland of a holy Carmelite Arab, Maryam Bawardi, [beatified in 1983] strongly invoked by Christians there in their present anguish.... It is the crypt of the Annunciation in Nazareth that is that other spiritual force for Christians, and it is there where Charles de Foucauld taught me to meditate...... Nazareth can not be the object of a barter, it must remain for those who understand and respect her secret". (p.468)

On August 21, 1948 the President of the Jewish Ihud, Dr. Judah L. Magnes declared,
" ....We should never treat refugees as political hostages. It is deplorable, what can I say, unbelievable, that after that which the Jews suffered in Europe, a problem of displaced persons (Arabs) be created in the Holy Land".(p.469)

If we are to remain true to the spirit of the Badaliya prayer we must not forget the suffering and mariginalization of our Arab Christian brothers and sisters who struggle to survive and uphold a Christian presence in the Holy Land and their Muslim neighbors. Let us pray with them and for them and do all that we can to understand this ongoing crisis.
Massignon wrote:
"Reconciliation should come from a third element, the Christian element." (p. 466)

Please remember September 15, 2008, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, friend and mentor to Louis Massignon, who ensured the survival of Brother Charles' message from Nazareth.

Peace to you.