March 15, 2020.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday March 15, 2020 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.

During the six weeks Season of Lent Christians are invited to increase their prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a way to prepare their hearts and minds for the extraordinary events of Holy Week and Easter. Fasting as a means of spiritual and physical integration of the body and the soul is an ancient practice common to all three Abrahamic faith traditions and many others as well. Experiencing what it feels like to be hungry allows us to be more aware of our neighbors who do not have enough food to feed their children and connects to almsgiving by encouraging us to give what we do not spend on food to those most in need. Many other forms of charitable giving are part of the Lenten fast and includes our offering of our time as well as our financial resources.

Our Muslim friends have a rich tradition of fasting during the month of Ramadan. At the evening breaking of the fast they not only share the meal with others but offer the leftovers to the very poor.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving can be an invitation to deepen our awareness of physical hunger and thirst that transforms into spiritual hunger and thirst. In our Gospel reading today we hear about a Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus when she comes to draw water from Jacob's Well. In the exchange, it becomes clear that water has become a powerful metaphor as Jesus states, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4: 5- 42)

Our spiritual guide here is Louis Massignon, the founder of the Badaliya prayer movement. His vision of fasting was greatly influenced by The Prophet Isaiah in the Hebrew Scriptures who speaks on behalf of God. " This rather is the fasting that I wish, releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. (Is.58:6-7)

Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and so many other witnesses, Massignon links fasting with justice. The Islamic form of fasting from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan became his monthly practice. In 1953 he invited all the members of the Badaliya prayer movement to join him in this monthly fast for a return of a serene peace between Christianity and Islam. He even asked the Pope to bless this initiative. He recognized this as, "a virile effort counter to nature, a silencing of the voices of the flesh". And he wrote, "I have tried for years to succeed at uniting Christians and Muslims through fasting for justice"...."This fast, which is to be observed with the discipline of silence following the first Christians, and the tradition in Islam, made a profound impression and gave the participants a deep sense of inner peace. The act of fasting is the virginal basin into which flows the word of divine Justice, the word of Resurrection. Fasting makes us hunger and thirst for Justice, which is the consummation of Love. Fasting is an action, an active prayer of Badaliya".

During the season of Lent, the Catholic Christian tradition invites us to reflect deeply on our own failures in loving God and one another generously. Through the sacrament called "Reconciliation" we have another opportunity for spiritual and emotional renewal. On October 5, 1957, Massignon joined his Jewish colleagues, for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, about which he wrote to members of the Badaliya," At the request of our noble friends from the Ihud, R. Judah Magnes and Dr. Martin Buber, several of us will fast this year for true fraternal reconciliation between Isaac and Ishmael because there is so much to atone for".

In closing, let us reflect together on the iconic words of Martin Luther King, "Let Justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream".

May you be enriched throughout this Lenten Season with the words of these great witnesses for peace with Justice.

Peace to you,

Quotations from Louis Massignon,A Pioneer of Interfaith Dialogue, The Badaliya Prayer Movement, p. 120 and Annual Letter VII p. 38-39) and
Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream, delivered from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC August 28, 1963

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