May 20,2007.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, May 20th from 3:00 pm-4:30 pm in the small chapel in St. Paul's Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land, in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

In the midst of the many conflicts in our world especially in the Middle East and the Holy Land we are invited to hold out our hope for reconciliation and non-violent solutions by our call to the Badaliya Prayer.

As we are celebrating the Ascension of Jesus this week in our Catholic Christian tradition and moving toward Pentecost and the close of the Easter Season, I am aware of the emphasis that Louis Massignon put on these traditions in the Church. His Badaliya letters reflect how deeply he experienced them and how much they informed his Badaliya prayer and his sensitivities to the traditions in other religious faiths. All through this Easter Season we have heard how Our Lord appeared on numerous occasions first to Mary Magdalene and the disciples and then to hundreds at a time. Slowly they were being instilled with the courage that only comes from our own real experiences in life, so that when the Paraclete came on that Pentecost day they spoke the Word with such conviction of heart that all who heard them understood them in their own language.

We who are committed to growing in our conviction of Badaliya prayer are invited to so deepen our willingness to engage with other faith traditions, and especially with our Muslim brothers and sisters, that we are able to welcome hearing them speak to us of their experience of their faith tradition in their own "language".

Last month we were invited to deepen our understanding of Badaliya prayer that Massignon called the prayer of "substitution through compassion". The inevitable result of this prayer of compassion is an outreach to those around us in need and to a welcoming of the strangers in our midst that Massignon referred to as "sacred hospitality". One of the five pillars in Islam is almsgiving, Zakat, which Massignon understood in the depth of its multiple meanings in Arabic as both the responsibility of material offerings for the well being of the community as well as the interior conversion of heart that comes with this action. He wrote: "The exercise of hospitality, essential in Abrahamic Islam, is also essential for the Badaliya because this movement asks us to take in the Poorest of the poor, the Exile par excellence, God, hidden, 'substituted', in the most defenceless of those strangers who come to us for hospitality". The essence of sacred hospitality is to recognize the divine in the center of the soul of every human being . By welcoming and serving them, we welcome and serve God.

Praying and reflecting on sacred hospitality led Massignon to align with his Muslim brothers and sisters as they entered into their own traditions of sacred days. He prayed for them and with them during the month of Ramadan, on the "Night of Destiny" at the end of Ramadan and during the Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca. He stood before the Paris Mosque during times of injustice by the Government towards the Algerian Muslims chanting the Opening Sura of the Qur'an, known as the Fatiha. In turn many of his Muslim friends prayed in solidarity with the Badaliya prayer in their own countries or during the Christian and Muslim shared pilgrimage in Brittany, France. Some sacrificed their lives as a result, a sign to Massignon of the kind of witnessing that is the ultimate meaning of sacred hospitality, to offer ones own life for the sake of others. And he prayed the Fatiha at their funerals and when visiting their grave sites. It became the Muslim prayer that Massignon encouraged members of the Badaliya to learn in Arabic so that they truly pray in solidarity with their Muslim friends. This prayer is recited at the beginning of each of the five daily prayer times, and at the beginning of each Sura in the Qur'an save one. One of the first prayers in the Qur'an memorized very early by every Muslim child, the Surat el-Fatiha is the opening Sura (verse) of the Qur'an. The language of Islam and the Qur'an is Arabic and therefore all Muslims learn to chant the verses in this ancient and poetic language. The Fatiha is a wonderful summary of Muslim belief that God is the Lord of all being, entirely separate from the world yet forever present and aware, providing a Path from darkness into light and a direction for worship and praise:

Surah el-Fatiha
The Opening

"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Praise be to God, the Lord of all being.
The Merciful, the Compassionate.
Master of the Day of Judgement.
It is you alone that we serve,
It is only from you that we seek aid
Guide us on the straight path.
The path of those whom you have blessed.
Not of those with whom you are displeased. 
Nor of those who go astray."

(Translated by Matthew S. Gordon)

In reflecting on compassion and sacred hospitality I encourage us to deepen our commitment to our Badaliya prayer as a means to greater willingness to risk engagement with the strangers in our midst, to listen to them and to welcome them.

I am including below the contrubution of a Palestinian friend, Mazin Qumsiyeh, reflecting on Mother's Day, that I hope will inspire our prayers for peace and justice for all.

Peace to you .

Before it was commercialized, Mother's day in the Anglo-Saxon world originated as a declaration by mothers against war and for peace (Mother's day occurs on a different date in Western Asia and also appropriately celebrates the coming of Spring - symbolisms for giving and new births). Below is the original PEACE declaration by Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) for the first Mother's Day in the West. I also share below a video tape to view on this occasion (thanks to Lysander Puccio for sending this).

Like all people, I honor my mother on this day. The lessons she taught me shaped my life but this is not enough. When I was 6 years old, my first memories are of her taking clothes and food to a refugee family living in a cave on the outskirts of Bethelehem. When I was 10 year old during the 1967 Israeli invasion of what remained of Palestine, my memories are of her dissuading people from leaving. After retiring from serving 30 years as school teacher and then principal of an elementary school, she decided retirement is too boring, went back to get a BS in English and then returned to teach for a few more years. She is still active in civic affairs and she was canvassing and volunteering in other ways in the last elections in the West Bank.

Like all Palestinians under Israeli apartheid system, she cannot even travel to Jerusalem or to the Mediterranean or to the Dead Sea (were I have fond memories of shoppings and picnics). That is not unusual since dozens of Palestinian mothers lost their children and some their lives delivering babies at checkpoints and apartheid wall gates. It is not unusual since Palestinian mothers lost their lives simply standing in the balconies of their homes (see e.g. the killing of Shaden Abu Hijleh, mother, grandmother, peace activist, feminist For more on the current life and thoughts of Palestinian mothers, check out this blog of a Palestinian mother: And our thoughts are with Iraqi and American mothers who suffered due to the endless wars (to serve special interests). This is a letter from an Iraqi mother to mothers of Americans killed in Fallujah:

On this mothers day, indeed we should honor our mothers with a hearty thank you but we do far better by honoring all mothers and implementing their original Mother's day proclamation:


"Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and
applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to
teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the
great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the
sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress
of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at someplace
deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of peace."

Videotape on Mother's day

Mazin Qumsiyeh