March 10, 2019.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, March 10, 2019 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.

On Ash Wednesday Christians around the world received the ashes of repentance on their foreheads to mark the beginning of the Season of Lent. During this season, we are invited to go with Jesus into the desert for forty days to fast, pray and offer alms to our less fortunate brothers and sisters. The desert is a symbol of dryness and emptiness and one who is lost in the desert hungers and thirsts for life-giving nourishment. It is a place and a time for reflection on the many temptations in our daily lives that pull us away from the loving relationship to God and one another that we are called to as believers and human beings. Today is therefore a ripe time to repent and seek an alternative to the violence perpetrated in the name of religions that has continued to be a temptation throughout the history of the world.

800 years ago, in the year 1219, the well- known Saint Francis of Assisi, Italy, crossed the battle lines during the 5th Crusade in Damietta, Egypt to meet the Sultan, Al-Malik Al-Kamil. This year in commemoration of that event, and as a much-needed example of interfaith engagement and a spirit of peace and friendship, many conferences are taking place around the world, including in Pakistan, Murcia-Granada, Spain, Venice and Rome in Italy and in Jerusalem.

"For Louis Massignon this event in the life of St. Francis inspired him to become a secular third order Franciscan in 1931. It also inspired his choice of an obscure Franciscan chapel in Damietta, Egypt in which to make the original vow of Badaliya. Francis' visit to the Sultan and willingness to sacrifice himself out of love for the other was an example of the prayer of substitution that is the ground for the Badaliya prayer movement that Massignon and Mary Kahil established in 1934. "The Crusades by the popes to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims were a part of Christian history that has tragically affected Christian and Muslim relations for hundreds of years. Francis took an enormous risk by crossing those battle lines in Damietta and the result is one that has inspired generations of spiritual seekers, researchers and many efforts of interfaith gatherings by Christians and Muslims.

"The 5th Crusade took place from 1217 to 1221. By then Francis was instructing his brothers in a radical departure from the Christian cultural norms of his time and guiding them toward his understanding of the meaning of life as a follower of Jesus. The guiding light for Francis came from the Gospel of Matthew, "Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you". (Mt.5:44) His life was informed by these words of Jesus that he took to heart to the point of telling his religious brothers that the Muslims, who the Church insisted were the enemies of Christ, were not only friends but brothers."

As we enter into the Lenten Season let us join with the efforts of peace and reconciliation with the Muslim and Christian communities taking place around the world in commemoration of this 800th anniversary of Saint Francis' visit to the Sultan. Let us offer our prayers for the well-being of all of our Muslim sisters and brothers everywhere and the success of these gatherings in bringing peace, reconciliation and sincere friendship between all three Abrahamic faith traditions.

Let us pray in the spirit of St. Francis, for religious believers and non-believers throughout the world.

Peace to you,

Quotations from my article, Substitutionary Prayer and the Stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi. See the article at for a full exploration of this encounter and for the postings of all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute.