January 17, 2021.

Dear Friends,

Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic we will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday January 17, 2021 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. 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, especially in the Holy Land, and for an end to the pandemic with the recovery of health for the world.

As we begin this New Year, I would not be faithful to the Spirit of the Badaliya and the legacy of Louis Massignon if I did not address the current divisive climate in the United States and the events that took place on January 6th in Washington DC. This day is called Epiphany in the Christian liturgical calendar. We hear the story of the Magi, or wise men, astrologers from the East who are guided by a bright star to Bethlehem in Palestine to pay homage to the newborn child, Jesus. They are not Israelites but rather foreigners, who recognize who this child is, the manifestation of God born into the world. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House in our Congress, made reference to this Feast in her remarks late in the night when the Congress was able to reconvene after the assault on our nation's democracy by a violent mob made up of white nationalists and other xenophobic and racist groups, incited by the President himself.

We are an Interfaith gathering of Muslims and Christians who come together to share our beliefs and faith traditions in the spirit of friendship and Massignon's vision of Badaliya. If you read either the French or English translation of the monthly letters that Massignon wrote and mailed to members of the Badaliya prayer movement all over the world, you will read of the history of major events at the time. These events called out to Massignon to let the intensity of his passionate prayers inform his social engagement and actions. It is clear that he did not just pray for peace with justice but worked for it, often risking his own reputation and safety as a renowned diplomat, scholar and College Professor. Denise Barrat wrote this about Massignon: "The miracle was the union, or rather the radical unity in him of the most erudite, and most thoroughly researched science, with a devouring mystical thirst for justice and the Absolute. His was a faith that was admirably upright and pure. He loved Islam - for Islam itself and without any thought of proselytizing - as a passionate Christian. This thirst for justice extended itself to all people and to all who are persecuted. This thirst was rooted in the depth of the Old Testament just as it was in the depth of the Gospels. It had, if I dare say it, an Abrahamic character that found itself in Louis Massignon's way of being."

The Feast of the Epiphany is a manifestation of God's vision for creation and all of humanity. It is God entering into human history. The prophetic voices found in the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are a fervent call to return to that vision. It is a vision of peace with justice that starts with loving God and your neighbor and calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, free the prisoners, welcome the stranger and the asylum seekers and more. Many of our Muslim friends have sought refuge here in the United States escaping persecution of their families in their home countries. We are blessed to be able to befriend them and share our faith experiences with them. The events on January 6th shone a light on the continuing need for vigilance in order to maintain the democratic principles that are the foundation of this country; that is meant to be a welcoming and safe haven for all. These past months have brought the systemic failures in this country to the surface. Bryan Massingale wrote:

"What we saw today is a clear declaration that many white people would rather live in a white dictatorship than in a multiracial democracy." And St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that one shares in the evil of another, "by omitting the counsel that would have hindered the wrongdoing" and by "silence, by not preventing, by not denouncing."

"For a believer, it is important to see racism as a soul sickness." "If we want to change the world, we need a new way of seeing, a new way of loving, a new way of living."

I believe Massignon lived the Badaliya prayer, believing in the efficacy of prayer and the ability of the Spirit of God to change hearts and minds. He was not silent and spoke truth to power as did all of the prophets. The first reading for today's liturgy from the Book of Exodus tells of the call by God to the very young Samuel who responded with "Speak Lord, your servant is listening." This is followed by Jesus' call to his first Disciples from the Gospel according to John, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" and he said to them, "Come and See."

May our monthly gathering of friends, Christians and Muslims, help us to answer when God calls, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening"; to go and see, and to allow our prayer of Badaliya to inspire us to work for peace with justice in our country and in our world.

Let us pray for the healing of divisions, the welcoming of people of all races, religions and nationalities and for the many who are putting their own lives at risk for the rest of us during this pandemic.

Peace to you,

Louis Massignon. Textes choisis et présentés par Jaques Keryell et Denise Barrat. Fulgurances: Au Jardin d'Une Parole Extasiee

Bryan N. Massingale. The Racist Attack on Our Nation's Capital America Magazine January 6, 2021

Bryan N. Massingale. Racism is a sickness of the soul. Can Jesuit spirituality help us heal? America Magazine November 20, 2017

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