February 20, 2011.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, February 20, 2011 from 3 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Pauls 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 the calls for human rights and economic reforms are reverberating from one country to another in the Middle East in these last few weeks all eyes have been focused on Cairo, Egypt where the Badaliya was first established in 1934. At the time Massignon envisioned a special role for members of the Badaliya, especially those living in the midst of the Muslim community in the Middle East. In his Statutes written in 1947 he wrote:

"It comes from the awareness of a particular responsibility of these Christians towards their Muslim brothers among whom they live. They have a providential mission in relation to them and would like to fulfill it.
Moreover, having suffered and suffering still through them, they wish 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)
While the Badaliya does not propose exterior action, its members always look for ways to devote themselves to their Muslim brothers and they will volontarily enter into active organizations that are able to animate the spirit of the Badaliya."

There are many examples today of the call for Christians to live their Christian faith in the midst of Muslim countries and to humbly love, respect and serve the needs of their Muslim brothers and sisters. The Little Sisters of Jesus and the Little Brothers of Jesus choose to live in the midst of Muslim communities throughout the world. Massignon encouraged the founding of these religious communities that were established in the late 1930's in the spirit of his "brother" and mentor, Blessed Charles de Foucauld.

We are pleased to be able to welcome Father Paolo Dall'Oglio to the Boston area this month. Father Paolo's life story is an example of living Badaliya in very much the way that Massignon envisioned it. By 1982, Father Paolo had been a Jesuit Priest for seven years. He discovered an ancient abandonned monastery built high into the rocks on the side of a mountain in the desert of Syria outside of Damascus called Deir Mar Moussa el-Habashi, the Monastery of Saint Moses the Ethiopian. He decided to make a retreat there in the midst of the crumbling walls and deteriorating frescoes. Despite his sense that this sacred place should be preserved in some way he forced himself to accept that the Church in the Middle East would be demolished and disappear. And yet he began to imagine a role, a mission for this sacred space in the midst of Islam. A group of Muslim hunters appeared and they spent the evening discussing religion and sharing a meal. Then a group of Christian villagers arrived for their annual celebration of the feast day of Saint Moses the Ethiopian.

Thirty years later Father Paolo and a small community of Christians from around the world live amidst the refurbished monastery of Mar Musa. They have created a sacred place of Christian prayer in Arabic, of service to the local Muslim and Christian villagers around them and a ministry of welcoming visitors from all over the world. In a collection of interviews gathered by a young French journalist, Guyonne de Montjou, Father Paolo speaks:

"Abdâl is the plural of the arabic word badal. From this word Louis Massignon took the Badaliya, the invisible monastery, this community of offered persons, of persons substituted for Islam and for the world.

The abdâl in Islam are the hidden souls, sufferers, who are united to God, and who through their attitude of intercession, like Abraham, save the world.

The abdâl are good Muslims; for me they can also be good Christians; they share in the same mystical school, the school of unconditional love. In order to become an abdâl it is necessary to work in one's soul without relenting. We don't declare ourselves abdâl. The abdâl are chosen by God in order to heal the wounds of the world through the gift of themselves, through patience, humility, silence and small things taken on with love...."
(Guyonne de Montjou, 2006. Mar Moussa, une monastère, un homme, un désert. Éditions Albin Michel . pp.96-97.)

In this time of political transition in Tunisia, Egypt and throughout the Middle East let us pray that the life and prayers of our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters serve as a witness to God's love for all people, bringing justice, peace and interfaith acceptance throughout the region and the world.

Peace to you.