September 18, 2011.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, September 18, 2011 from 3 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Pauls 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.

On Sunday, July 24th members of the Badaliya and St. Pauls Partner Parish committee welcomed the Melkite Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour from Haifa, Israel at St. Pauls Catholic Church in Cambridge, MA. On our pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009, many of us had visited the ruins of his native Palestinian village, Ba'ram, that was destroyed and evacuated in 1948 when he was 9 years old. We also met with him at the Bishop's residence in Haifa where he serves as the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Galillee. Hearing his story again we can not but be inspired by Abouna's faith and courage. "Abouna" is an endearing arabic term that means spiritual father. He has spent the last 46 years in Ibillin, Israel building the Mar Elias Educational Institutions that educate Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druze together from Kindergarten through University. Although educating children of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds is the norm here in the USA, it is not so in Israel where even obtaining building permits and recognition of these schools has been an ongoing challenge. The fund raising organization here in the United States, called the Pilgrims of Ibillin, co sponsored our event in July.

Our Badaliya has a special relationhip with Abouna Chacour and the town of Ibillin, Israel. As a result of praying with and reflecting on the writings of Louis Massignon we were drawn to the first Palestinian Christian to be beatified by the Latin Church in Rome by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Maryam Baouardy took the name "Maryam of Jesus Christ Crucified" when she became a Carmelite nun. It was she who established the first Carmelite Monastery in the Holy Land in Bethlehem. Massignon knew of her cause for Beatification and called her "the Little Arab." He wrote that she should be the Patron Saint of the Holy Sites in the Holy Land. She was born in Ibillin and the first kindergarten established by Abouna Chacour in Ibillin is called the Maryam Baouardy kindergarten. It seemed more than appropriate for us to designate the Little Arab as our Patron Saint when we re-created the Badaliya in the spirit of Louis Massignon in 2002. We continue to pray for her canonization as well.

When Abouna Chacour's Bishop suggested to him that the Mar Elias schools were his life's work, Abouna answered: " My work is first and foremost Jesus Christ himself. I see him in every Muslim, in every Palestinian, in every Palestinian Christian, in every Israeli Jew who I meet. My life's work is to win their hearts, to bring a smile to their faces and to wipe away at least one of their tears." (From the Introduction p. XVII in Faith Beyond Despair: Building Hope in the Holy Land, Canterbury Press 2008.)

I am sending this convocation on the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington DC and the failed flight 93, brought down in Pennsylvania. These ten years have seen responses from an out pouring of selfless offerings to victims and their families and friends to an escalation of anti mulsim rhetoric and actions that blame "all" Muslims for this tragedy. As members of the Badaliya we are dedicated to making a distinction between the terrorists who use religion to incite violence and destruction and authentic Muslim, Christian or Jewish believers. We are called to pray for those we love as well for those who betray and hurt us. The Badaliya prayer begins with helping us to chanel our own outrage and pain in order to allow God to transform it into forgiveness and love of one another. May we join Abouna in seeing the face of Christ in every one and working to win their hearts and wipe away at least one of their tears, along with our own.

The call to Badaliya remains a challenge to our own spiritual growth and willingness to go ever deeper into what it means to "cross over to the other", to enter into the faith experience of our Muslim friends and to share their joy and their pain and just possibly offer our own lives for them. Our model is the Lord, Jesus Christ and the witnesses who follow Him are our inspiration.

Many have been inspired by Louis Massignon's Badaliya and as we enter into this academic year we will call upon them for our ongoing inspiration in these monthly convocations. Please join us in our Badaliya prayer.

Peace to you.