February 18, 2018.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, February 18, 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.

Today is the first Sunday of the 40 day Lenten season. The spirit of Lent is very much like the spirit of Ramadan for our Muslim friends. Christians are invited to enter into a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the holy days of Easter and to reflect on their lives and their relationships with others to heal differences, to ask forgiveness for their failures and to give up the prejudices and selfish actions that keep them from healthy relationships with God and each other. We are reminded that out of infinite love and mercy God has made a covenant with all living beings and that as Christians, our baptism into the life of Christ is a covenant of God with each of us. We are called to repentance from all the ways that we distance ourselves from God and to remember that God will never abandon us.

I would like to dedicate our prayer gathering to the memory of a friend of the Badaliya who died at the age of 92 on December 26, 2017. Father Maurice Borrmans was a Missionary member of the White Fathers who served in Tunisia, Algeria, Bahrain, Italy and France. He was an active member of the Association of the Friends of Louis Massignon in Paris for many years, wrote many books and articles about Massignon and edited the French edition of the letters that Massignon wrote to members of the Badaliya from 1947 to 1962. From an autobiography that he wrote about his own extensive experience as a Priest and scholar we see the trajectory that led him to Blessed Charles de Foucauld and the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart, to Louis Massignon and to a rich engagement with Interfaith relations throughout his life. He was especially impressed by the witness of those Christians, first by the writings of Ernest Psishari and later Foucauld and Massignon, who recovered the Christian faith of their childhood thanks to the 'challenge of Islam.' "Was there in that reality a strange Mystery of Providence?" he asked.

By collaborating with and respecting those with "different religious convictions than his own" in the early years of his ministry, he reflected on "the meaning of the convergence and divergence between Christians and Muslims." He was invited to participate in many official Islamo-Christian dialogues thereby forming friendships and mutual understanding. He wrote,

"The asceticism of study and research, and their successive discoveries, encouraged me to make mine the intuitions of Louis Massignon and the generosities of his Badaliya; a spirituality of compassion and substitution." Inspired by the studies of Massignon he explored what he called, "the adventures of grace" and the most "authentic witness" of the 10th century Sufi Muslim mystic known as al-Hallaj and discovered that there were "just" believers and even "saints" within Islamic tradition. "How could we not welcome them, in the name of Abraham? he asked." He understood that for Massignon, Christians were to live their lives growing in their awareness of "the secret presence of Jesus, son of Mary within them in order to finally be the artisans of a serene peace between Muslims and Christians as the seventh beatitude wishes ..." Father Borrmans is referring to the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5, where Jesus preached, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God". He continued, "This is why in all my writings I have invited one and the other to necessary human collaborations. Even if their scriptural justifications and theologies are different and sometimes opposing, Christians and Muslims know that they must participate together with all persons of good will to the completion of the world for the glory of God."

May Father Borrmans' experience and witness in these excerpts of his autobiography inspire us to deepen our friendships and faith sharing with one another in order to become witnesses to the possibility of Peace with Justice in our world and to peacemaking in our daily lives during this Lenten Season and always.

Peace to you,

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