THE PEACE OF ABRAHAM, HAGAR, & SARAH:
SHARING SACRED SEASONS, 2007
Shalom, salaam, peace! --
In the fall of 2007, several sacred seasons of the Abrahamic faiths will come together. At a moment of history when religious conflict and violence have reemerged bearing lethal dangers for each other and our planet, God has given our spiritual and religious traditions an unusual gift of sacred time.
Let us celebrate this rare confluence of THE PEACE OF ABRAHAM, HAGAR, & SARAH by praying and learning with each other and by acting together to –-
SEEK PEACE, PURSUE JUSTICE,
FEED THE POOR, HEAL THE EARTH,
SERVE THE ONE
In 2007, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish month of the High Holy Days and Sukkot will coincide. During this sacred month will come also the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4), and the Worldwide Communion Sunday of Protestant and Orthodox Christians (October 1).
The convergence of these dates will then not recur for another thirty years. We call on our generation of the families of Abraham to join in these efforts.
In accord with the ancient tradition that Abraham’s tent was open on all four sides to welcome travelers from everywhere, we invite into this celebration not only the three main families of Abraham but also on the fourth side others who share these goals. In that context, we note that Mahatma Gandhi's birthday is on October 2 and that Buddhist, Hindu, and other festivals also come during this sacred season.
Ramadan begins (depending on sighting of the new moon) about September 12-14 and ends about October 12 with Eid al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast. The month-long commitment to fast from dawn to dusk each day offers food and life-abundance as a sacrifice, focusing on devotion to God instead of on material success, and calls us to turn toward each other in repentance.
Rosh Hashanah begins the evening of September 12; Yom Kippur falls on September 21-22; Sukkot begins the evening of September 26. The month is one of turning toward God and toward harmonious relationships among human beings and the earth.
St. Francis of Assisi stood almost alone among the Christians of his day in opposing the Crusades and investing months of his life in studying and praying with Muslims.
We urge specific communities to choose from among the many rich moments of the month a focus-time for learning from the past, celebrating the present, and transforming the future. *
For example, we encourage shared celebrations on Sunday, September 30 -- one of the dawn-to-dusk fast days of Ramadan and also the fourth day of the festival of Sukkot.
In the spirit of the Jewish prayer: "Spread over us the Sukkah of Shalom," we could gather in the fragile, vulnerable, leafy Sukkah hut to celebrate a joyful fast of Ramadan, to joyfully break the fast together after sundown, and to learn joyfully from such teachers as Francis of Assisi and Gandhi – all of whom taught that true security, true peace come from sharing the truth that we are all vulnerable, all fragile, all connected with each other and the earth.
We encourage our religious communities to take some action to seek change in public policy -- in favor of protecting human rights, healing the earth, and achieving peace in the regions where Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah sojourned.
We urge those of all our traditions to begin NOW, in our own cities and neighborhoods as well as nationally and internationally, to plan with each other how to use these sacred seasons to carry out God's will that we live together THE PEACE OF ABRAHAM, HAGAR, & SARAH.
* Perhaps in clusters of congregations, each community could host one meal for members of the others, after nightfall on any of the evenings of Ramadan.
* .Jews could, in line with old tradition, invite "sacred guests" from other traditions into the open, leafy Sukkah; invoke Sukkot blessings upon all "seventy nations" of the world; and implore God to "spread the sukkah of shalom" over us.
* Muslims could invite other communities to join in celebrating some aspects of Eid el-Fitr (the feast at the end of Ramadan), and Jews and Christians could (as in Morocco) bring food to the celebration of the end of Ramadan's fasting.
* Churches could invite Jews, Muslims, and others to join in learning about and celebrating the teachings of Francis of Assisi.
*Synagogues and mosques could eat together in an evening break-fast (Iftar) and then join in reading and discussing both the Jewish and the Muslim teachings of the story of Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael, Sarah, and Isaac.
This statement, initiated by the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah, has been endorsed by the National Council of Churches, the Islamic Society of North America, The Shalom Center, the Jewish Committee for Isaiah's Vision, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and its rabbinic body Ohalah, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and many other groups. See www.tentofabraham.org
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