June 19, 2011.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, June 19, 2011 from 3 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 pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

This is our final gathering before our summer break and the daily news reports continue to focus on what is being called the "Arab Spring" throughout the countries in the Middle East. Our prayer for peaceful transitions that meet the cries for the protection of human rights and democratic values throughout the region is more than ever necessary. The violent response by governments to peaceful demonstrations, especially in Syria and Libya, have caught the attention of the world and raised fears of fundamentalist religious ideologies usurping the authentic movement toward freedom and democracy led by the region's youth.

We must not forget that for generations many Palestinian and Israeli Christians and Muslims have engaged in nonviolent protests against repressive government policies and illegal settlements and formed numerous organizations in both Israel and the Palestinian territories advocating for peaceful negotiation and resolution to a conflict dating back to the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel in 1948. Having visited some of these courageous and hope-filled peace organizations and our Latin Partner Parish and school in Beit Sahour, Palestine our Badaliya prayer is a powerful reminder not to see the "Other" as an enemy nor to demonize either the Jewish State nor the Arab Muslims. Once again Massignon's prophetic voice speaks loudly in these words written to members of the Badaliya on October 7, 1955:

"A promise given to a guest, even an enemy, is sacred.The Badaliya is founded on substitution for the Guest, even if he is the enemy, since the Guest is the guest of God. We need, through prayer, fasting and self-sacrifice, to overcome the racial fanaticism that confronts violence with violence in North Africa. Let us serve God first." ( Louis Massignon Badaliya au nom de l'autre(1947-1962) Cerf Paris 2011.Convocation # 14 p. 111)

Although in this letter Massignon is concerned specifically with Algeria and Morocco, today violence is the response once again in other countries in North Africa. Metaphorically "North Africa" stands for anywhere there is injustice and violence. Our journey through these last 50 days toward Pentecost and the rising up of the Holy Spirit within us that this feast represents has led us to many stories leading to the Holy City of Jerusalem starting with the Resurrection of Our Lord. The sacred shrines, along with whole populations in this city on the hill, have been violently destroyed and rebuilt since the time of King David in 1000BCE. The Babylonians exiled the whole Jewish population from Jerusalem in 587 BCE, the Syrians took the city in 100 BCE. The Romans sacked and burned the city to the ground in 70 CE, The Persian Zoarastrians in 614 CE , the Byzantines reconquered the City in 630 CE and Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Muslim Caliph to succeed the Prophet Muhammad seized Jerusalem five years after the death of the Prophet in 637 CE. Except for a brief period in the 12th century when the Crusaders took the city of Jerusalem it remained under Musim rule from 637 to 1917. It was the Muslim Ottoman Turks who rebuilt the ancient walls of Jerusalem as they stand today. During that time and for thirteen hundred years, although Jews and Christians were taxed and dominated politically by the Muslims, they were once again permitted to worship and maintain their holy shrines in the City of Peace, Jerusalem; al-Quds, the Holy, in Arabic.
( See James Carroll, Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited our Modern World. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, New York 2011.)

"We need, through prayer, fasting and self-sacrifice, to overcome the racial fanaticism that confronts violence with violence....Let us serve God first."

May your summer be filled with the Spirit of Peace and Love and let us remember our Badaliya prayer for the "Arab Spring"wherever we are during these summer months.

Peace to you.