September 17, 2017.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, September 17, 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.

At the end of our gathering in June before our summer break, we prayed that "our shared prayer be a light shining in the darkness of the divisions and violence in our world and dispel the fears of a world moving inevitably toward a global community and a shared reality." As we gather together again at the beginning of a new academic year, may we be reminded of our shared faith in the Mercy and Compassion of God and the value of communal prayer in each of our traditions.

Although in both Christianity and Islam our solitary prayer is also emphasized, Christianity emphasizes praying together and celebrating our life in God as community at least once a week. In Islam, too, the Friday prayer, or Congregational Salaat, is also recommended. Although the call to prayer five times a day at dawn, noon, afternoon, evening and night is often honored privately the tradition to join one another in congregational worship helps to foster relationships, social networks and activities and deepens the meaning of equality among all people.

In this final and holy month of the lunar Muslim calendar, the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca has just been completed by Muslims from all over the world. It is a wonderful example of how a community from every nation and culture can put aside ethnicity, race, language and gender, dawn a white garment and bond together as brothers and sisters united as Muslim believers. The unity in community is a witness to the Oneness of Allah, the All Merciful and Compassionate God of the Universe. The rituals of the Hajj end on the 10th day of the month of Dhu al-Hiija with the feast called Eid al-Adha. Traditionally, Muslims were required to slaughter an animal at the start of Eid, but pilgrims can now buy vouchers to represent an animal sacrifice.

Our readings today from the Christian scriptures remind us that we belong to God and that we are to forgive one another as God in His Merciful Love forgives us. In his letter to the Romans St. Paul wrote: " Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die we die for the Lord; whether we live or die we are the Lord's..."(Romans 14:7-9)

In an article written in November 2005 by our friend, and founder of the monastic community at the refurbished 6th century monastery, Deir Mar Musa in Nebek, Syria, dedicated to interfaith dialogue, Fr. Paolo Dall-Oglio, SJ wrote about the parallels that Massignon made of Islamic terms with Christian concepts such as the Islamic term Ji'had of the soul. The term is understood in Islam, especially in the Sufi lexicon of terms, in its greater meaning as a kind of asceticism, a struggle with one's own conscience and strife, on the path toward holiness, that for Massignon was a path to Christian discipleship and a way to incorporate it into his own spiritual life and practice. Fr. Paolo wrote: "There is also a parallelism between the Islamic hajj to Mecca and the Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The origin and source of both pilgrimages is Abraham, the Friend of God or al-khalil, and it is easy to compare Abraham's relation with Ishmael and Mecca with his relation to Isaac and Jerusalem. Abraham is also the archetype of the Emigrant or muhajir, who abandons himself to meet God in full self-commitment, or tawakkul. It is therefore clear that Massignon, in his study of al-Hallaj did not only study Sufism, but also the mystical way to meet God as a son of the Church."

Massignon saw the path toward unity in God as a spiritual emigration and the completing of the Ji'had of the soul was an offering of oneself as a sacrifice for the remission of sins. During the Muslim Hajj this ritual sacrifice takes place at Mt. Arafat where the pilgrims stand in vigil at the place where Muhammad gave his final sermon and then throw stones at three stone pillars to ward off Satan. Throughout the Hajj and at Arafat men and women are equal and the ji'had of the soul is for both. It includes service to the poor and the protection of orphans, guests and strangers. Therefore, wrote Fr. Paolo, "On the spiritual level, if the faithful seek to gain the favor of God by the ji'had of the soul, there is no opposition whatsoever between the ji'had of the Muslim and the ji'had of the Christian, for they both aspire towards the same goal."

Peace to you,

(Quotations from Padre Paolo Dall-Oglio, SJ. Louis Massignon and Ji'had through Foucauld, al-Hallaj and Gandhi. November 2005)

(See for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)