October 23, 2016.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, October 23, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

Although Catholic Christian tradition honors many officially canonized saints of the Church throughout the year, during the month of October some of the most renowned saints, or "friends of God" as they are called in the Sufi tradition, are recognized on special feast days. Those include the Carmelite Saints Thèrése of Lisieux (October 1st) and the founder of the Discalced Carmelites, the Spanish Saint Teresa of Avila, (October 15th) as well as the beloved Saint Francis of Assisi on October 4th, who established the network of religious Orders known as Franciscans. The feast day for the modern Saint, Pope Saint John Paul II, was established on October 22nd the inauguration day, in 1978, that began his long pontificate. Because Catholic believers hold a special reverence for what we call, the "Communion of Saints", those who in their life journey, and often despite difficult trials, became witnesses of God's love for the world and all of humanity through self-sacrifice and their dedication to the well being of others, many Catholics name their children after a favorite saint or take the name of one at their Baptism into the life of Christ and the Church, and at their Confirmation as teens.

Since all three Abrahamic faiths worship God, the "creator, sustainer and Lord of the Universe", as Muslims describe the Transcendent God of Adam, Abraham and Moses, all three also revere the prophets found in the Hebrew Scriptures, many of whom are also mentioned in the Qur'an. Islam also recognizes Jesus from the Christian Scriptures as a prophet second only to the final Prophet Muhammad. The prophetic voice is called "divine revelation" and distinguishes a prophet from a saint as one who has received the messages of God leading to the establishment of the Torah in Judaism, the Christian Scriptures in Christianity and the Qur'an in Islam. At the heart of all three faith traditions is a covenant with God, and therefore a commitment to peace that manifests in authentic relationships with our neighbors and care for one another as human beings, "made in the image of God", as described in the book of Genesis.

However, right at the beginning Genesis also tells us the all too prophetic story of sibling rivalry that ends in violence and the killing of one brother by another. Whether in our families or by our identification with one group or another, our human nature seems all too inclined to compete for power, money or exaggerated recognition and glory. In those first books of the Hebrew Bible even God is depicted as sanctioning war in order to gain power over others. These passages are the most difficult for us to hear and unfortunately have led some to use them to justify violence in the name of religion even today. Putting these texts in the context of four thousand years ago allows us to see them as a message of caution. These are stories about human weakness and were told at a very early stage of civilization and human development so that when we come to the books of the Prophets, God's voice is loudly proclaiming peace and justice. Moreover, we humans are now being confronted with our moral failures to be obedient to God's commandments and to worship only one God. From the well-known Ten Commandments to the Beatitudes of Jesus to the early documents by Muhammad with its message of peaceful coexistence, known as the Constitution of Medina, God calls us back to respect and love of one another and to worship Transcendent Grace.

Let us remember the models we have in our own time from our new Saint, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King to all those sincere Priests, Ministers, Rabbis and Imams whose words of wisdom and holy lives are calling us to love God and one another.

Peace to you,

(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)