April 9, 2017.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, April 9, 2017 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.

In the Christian tradition we are entering into the holiest week of the liturgical year beginning with the celebration today known as Palm Sunday. Even in our churches that are far away from the Holy Land we are transported to the holy city of Jerusalem where we enter with Jesus into his Passion and death and ultimately rejoice with him in His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Today however, we are at the beginning of this painful and confusing experience of being enthusiastically welcomed into this city, that is so significant for all three Abrahamic faiths, and yet will prove to lead Jesus to the painful experience of being abandoned by his friends and left to be beaten, tried and condemned to a cruel death on a Cross. Jesus does not enter this city as a King would on a magnificently decorated Stallion but instead as a humble preacher seated on a lowly donkey, a service animal used to carry heavy burdens. We are already aware of the ironic contradictions in this scene and the highly symbolic meanings that we are invited to reflect upon as we enter into the drama about to unfold in this City of Peace, called Jerusalem.

Louis Massignon not only visited and prayed in Jerusalem many times but also wrote many articles about the meaning of this city as a sacred symbol of unity for all of humanity especially for Christians, Muslims and Jews. In a beautiful section in an article published in Les Mardis de Dar-es-Salam in 1956 entitled Jerusalem, qibla du coeur de Muhammad, (Jerusalem, the Qibla in the Heart of Muhammad), he continues his exegesis that describes Jerusalem as the third holiest site for all Muslim pilgrims. Rising above the walls that surround the now destroyed ancient temple of Solomon, Muslims pray in two mosques, the famous Dome of the Rock that is known as the site of the Patriarch Abraham's sacrifice of his son Ishmael in Islam, and al-Aqça mosque, that represents the site of the nocturnal ascension of Prophet Muhammad. Massignon makes the connection to the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage, to the holy city of Mecca required of all Muslims once in a lifetime if they can afford it. The Qibla is the prayer niche in every mosque that faces toward the east as the direction to face during all Muslim prayers. Massignon wrote:

"At the end of time it is believed that the Ka'aba in Mecca will be transferred to Jerusalem because Jerusalem is the supreme Qibla of the Prophets. Jerusalem is the Qibla in the heart of Muhammad, the distant goal of his desires, because ceasing to be the place of sacrificial expiation represented by the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem remains the place where the Grace of divine Mercy's dew rains down on the victims of the Abrahamic Qurban, all the way to Arafât, even before the sacrifice, and the al-Aqça which is the place where Muhammad, in a dream, receives Islam's Law, making Jerusalem for him the place of Ecumenical Grace, more than the privileged rock of both the Jewish Paque and the Christian Paques."

The Qurban is the feast called Eid al-Adha, that commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for Allah and includes the slaughter of a lamb as a sacrificial ritual. The Jewish Paque is known as the Passover feast and also includes a sacrificial lamb. The Passion and Crucifixion of Christ took place at the time of the Passover in Jerusalem. This week Christians will celebrate the last Passover meal that Jesus celebrated with his disciples on the day we now call Holy Thursday. The events in the life of Christ that we enter into with Him during this Holy Week are known as the Christian Paques that culminates with the celebration of Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Although our Muslim friends do not understand the significance of the Passion of Christ in the way that Christians do they, along with our Jewish friends, share the significance of Jerusalem for all three Abrahamic faith traditions.

May we fervently pray together today for the realization of Louis Massignon's description of Jerusalem as a sacred symbol of unity for all of humanity.

A blessed Easter Season and Peace to you,

(Quotation is from Louis Massignon, Écrits Mémorable. vol.1. Robert Laffont 2009. p.265)

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