September 15, 2013.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our shared Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Prayer on Sunday, September 15, 2013 from 3:00 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 encourage Interfaith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

In an article written in 1959, Father Youakim Moubarac, a close spiritual friend and disciple of Louis Massignon, wrote the following description of the Badaliya prayer movement:

"Louis Massignon established an association of prayer and private fasting in order to suggest to Christians as well as Muslims (without suggesting an 'exchange') that they 'put themselves in the place' of each other, in the spirit of the five pillars of Faith: 'Witness, to Truth and Justice; Prayer, to the God of Abraham, father in common based on the scriptures; Fasting in common, for a serene peace; Almsgiving, in the name of Sacred Hospitality; Pilgrimage, of Christians and Muslims, to the Seven Sleepers Cave at Ephesus or to the Chapel of the Seven Sleepers in Brittany." (in Louis Massignon: Badaliya au nom de l'autre (1947-1962) présenté et annoté par Maurice Borrmans et Françoise Jacquin. Les Éditions du Cerf, Paris 2011.p.345)

The spirit of this prayer of substitution, Badaliya, and the witness and writings of Louis Massignon himself have inspired the establishment of communities dedicated to Interfaith dialogue and relations throughout the world both during his lifetime and afterwards. From religious communities like the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart, followers of the spirit of Massignon's friend and mentor, Blessed Charles de Foucauld, to the monastery established by the Monks of Tibherine in Algeria whose dedication to their calling ultimately ended with the offering of their lives, to the refurbishment of the 6th century monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian, called Deir Mar Musa, in the desert of Syria, the spirit of Badaliya has expressed the depth of it's founders original vision.

In 1982, after a spiritual retreat to the desert ruins of Deir Mar Musa, the Jesuit priest, Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, with the implicite influence of Louis Massignon wrote that he wished to be "Christian and Muslim at the same time!" He wrote:

"Three elements became clear: contemplative life as a value in itself and as an essential space for interreligious encounter; Gospel simplicity and manual labor as an essential style for dialogue with life; Abrahamic hospitality as a unique desirable mission in view of Muslims and Christians together doing the will of the Only One."

Fr. Paolo felt called to refurbish the crumbling frescoes in this ancient desert monastery, abandonned since the 11th century, and when faced with many obstacles, he sought the advice of the local village Melchite Archbishop, Msg. Edelby, who had known Louis Massignon in Paris and participated in the Badaliya gatherings there. The Bishop's consolation and introduction to Jacques Keryell's,"L'hospitalité Sacrée", a book describing the foundations of the Badaliya prayer movement, caused him to reflect:

"This was fundamental: I finally found a spiritual homeland, a language, a perspective....It was only later that I discovered the desire, barely acknowledged, of Louis and Mary, to found an Abbey of divine Love, contemplative men and women, radically consecrated to the Christian intercession on behalf of Islam, as community and not only as individual believers. It is evident that for Louis Massignon this monastic community of men and women would carry within it a mystery of harmony in diversity, decisive in relation to his conception of God and of the harmony among humans."

Fr. Paolo began to realize how Massignon experienced understanding the "other" by internalizing, through empathy, the spiritual world within which one encounters them. It was during his work on his thesis on Muslim eschatology that he understood Muslim piety and devotion for the Prophet Muhammad and was introduced to the rest of Massignon's writings. He wrote:

"This was very clear in my soul: by studying I would deepen the conditions for my dreamed-of monastic community, a community that could root itself in the vow of Badaliya."

Twenty years later this small community remains vowed to the love of Jesus for Muslims and for Islam in the desert of Syria. In their monastic profession the members vow to engage themselves, " in this Community and according to its charism in the mission of the Church in service to the Muslim world until the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven", and this in "chastity, poverty and obedience to the Gospel, in a life of prayer, manual labor, and the welcoming of guests."

"The monks and nuns and lay persons living in community at Deir Mar Musa, called the Community of al-Khalil ( Abraham, the friend of God) are dedicated to paritcipating in the effort of the divine to gather all God's children into the love of the Only One." (written by Fr, Paolo Dall'Oglio, Nebek, Deir Mar Musa April 5, 2009. ibid.p.372-374)

At this moment the civil war in Syria has escalated to an unimaginable level of pain and destruction. Exiled by the government after thirty years at Deir Mar Musa, Fr. Paolo recently travelled throughout Europe raising awareness of the situation facing the Syrian people. In an effort at reconciliation, and out of the depth of his vow to live with and for his beloved Muslim and Christian Syrian friends, Fr. Paolo returned to Northern Syria on July 11, 2013. There has been no definitive word since.

Let us continue to pray with and for this man, a "lover of Islam and a believer in Jesus", for peace and reconciliation, especially in Syria and the Middle East at this time, and for the eschatological vision of harmony among all human beings in the coming Kingdom of God.

Peace to you.