January 18, 2015.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Faith Sharing on Sunday, January 18,2015 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.

As the Christmas Season has come to a close for Christians and we enter into the public ministry of Jesus, we are invited to listen carefully to how each of us is called by our God to live our faith in the world. Just as we began the Advent journey with John, known as a Prophet in Islam and as the Baptist in Christianity, we bring the Christmas story to a close with the Baptism by John of Jesus in the Jordan river. It is the beginning of the public preaching ministry of Jesus. We have travelled through Advent listening to the stories as they are told in the Gospels, of the birth of John, of the Announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary of the coming nativity of Jesus, and her visit to Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John, and are finally brought to the celebration of the Mass of Christ's birth on December 25th.

In our Interfaith sharing we have grown in our faith experience by the addition of the Qur'anic passages about Zechariah, the Prophet John and Mary and her son, Jesus. The profound meaning for Christians of the birth of Jesus invites our further reflections together. Every year we await the birth of new life in God, of Love and Peace for all of humanity coming into our world. Our spiritual journey as Christians, who have all been Baptized into the Life of God in Christ Jesus, invites us to reflect on how each of us is called to grow in this life in Him. His public ministry is the example of the path we are to follow, the way we are to be in relation to others, and the depths of the love that God, the father of Jesus, has for each one of us. We become His adopted children through our lives in Christ. The Church recognizes Mary as the Theotokos, the Mother of God and Jesus the Christ, or the annointed One, as the second Person in the Trinity of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all three in One Person. These are mysterious pronouncements and deeply spiritual in their nature, calling us to wonder at their multiple meaning for us today.

And, today, the city of Peace, Jerusalem, the symbol of the Heavenly Jerusalem which is our destination in this life, struggles with a never-ending conflict between Arabs and Jews, calling into question the unity of Spirit, found in Christ's message for all three Abrahamic faith traditions, that the Kingdom of God is at hand bringing Peace with Justice. Nations have yet to fulfill the Prophet Isaiah's call to "beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." (Isaiah 2:1-5) For Islam, Jesus is a Prophet second only to the Prophet Mohammad, and for Christians He is the fulfillment of the ancient prophesies of the Hebrew Bible.

Louis Massignon, the founder of the Badaliya movement had much to say about the three Abrahamic religions, and to what God has always demanded of Israel. He wrote an article called, "Jérusalem Ville de Paix"(Jerusalem City of Peace) that appeared in the publication Témoignage chrétien (Christian Witness) on April 30, 1948. He wrote:

"Yes, I went back eight weeks ago to Jerusalem because as a Christian I have felt myself pulled, with all of the risks, to situate and consecrate my prayer there where 'heaven has visited earth'. Charles de Foucauld has besides bequeathed this true 'Nazorian' rule that one can only take in one's national vocation by expatriating oneself, sometimes all the way to the Holy Land in order to meditate on it there"

" I was very moved to hear J-L Magnes, President of Hebrew University affirm me again, that the only real peril that manaces Israel in terrorist Zionism is that it denies the vocation, more than International, supranational, that God, without repentance, has charged it with on earth." Massignon called this vocation " terrible and sublime"..."Each time that Israel, Magnes told me, has denied this vocation, God has punished them with catastrophes, announced by the prophets ... Israel is vowed to break all the idols made by the hands of men...Massignon was convinced that only the Jewish University would be able to give Israel it's place in Palestine by taking Arabic, the language of civilisation, as it's second language,." He wrote: " Every attempt to divide the Holy Land between rivals, as well as every attempt to abandon this unique symbol of the future Union of humanity, to Israel alone, by excluding Christianity or Islam, is unrealizable." ( P. 743 in Louis Massignon, Écrits Mémorable vol I Editions Robert Laffont, Paris 2009)

We can only imagine what Massignon might have to say today in light of current events in Israel, Palestine, the whole of the Middle East as well as in Turkey. And we must now include the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, another great city and people dear to Massignon. Massignon calls into question our own vocations as Christians and Muslims and Jews and what Christ's message of Peace with Justice is demanding of each one of us.

Let us pray together, in true union of spirit, that we can envision the Kingdom of God announced by Jesus and that Peace with Justice will conquer all evil.

Peace to you.