TentgraphicnowordsOctober Surprise:

A Call to Share Sacred Seasons

At just
the moment of history when religious conflicts have reemerged bearing
lethal dangers for each other and our planet, God has given our
spiritual and religious traditions a gift of time:

During October
2005, a rare confluence of sacred moments in many different traditions
invites us to eat together, walk together, learn together, pray
alongside each other, listen to each other, and work together for
peace, justice, human rights, and the healing of our wounded earth.

The
sacred Muslim lunar month of Ramadan and the sacred Jewish lunar month
of Tishrei (which includes the High Holy Days) both begin October 3-4;
October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi; and October 2 is
World-wide (Protestant/Orthodox) Communion Sunday. (For other sacred
times that appear in October, see note 1 below.) The confluence of
these four sacred seasons will recur in 2006 and 2007.

We could do much during these sacred times to heal our nation and the world. As one unifying moment of our prayer and effort —

We
call on all communities of faith and ethics to observe a Nationwide
Fast for Reflection, Repentance, Reconciliation, and Renewal, from
sunrise to sunset on October 13. That day is for Muslims one of the
fast days of Ramadan, and for Jews is the fast day of Yom Kippur.

Just
as Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah welcomed into their tent thirsty travelers
from all four directions, we welcome to this Fast not only those of the
three Abrahamic traditions but all who thirst for a world made whole.
We encourage those who join in this Fast to dedicate their prayers and
their intention to serve the God Who calls us to seek peace, feed the
poor, heal the earth, and then later to take visible steps in the world
to heed God’s call.

Besides taking part in the October 13
Nationwide Fast, there are a number of ways to share these sacred
moments. (See note 2 below for possible examples.)

Engaged as we
are in war, violence, and repression with strong religious overtones,
we, communities of the faithful, could instead take some action
together during the Ramadan/ Tishrei month to change 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 God’s October Surprise of these sacred dates to
heed the call of the Holy One that we live in peace together.

As
we walk our path into this three-year journey of sharing sacred
seasons, let us make the deep connections that will keep us together
long after our sacred calendars dance in other directions.

This
Call was initiated by The Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah. The Call
has been endorsed by the National Council of Churches, the Islamic
Society of North America, Pax Christi, The Shalom Center, the Jewish
Committee for Isaiah’s Vision (see note 3 below), ALEPH: Alliance for
Jewish Renewal and its rabbinic body, Ohalah, the Disciples Justice
Action Network. Northwest Interfaith Movement (Philadelphia)
[partial list]

Join God’s October Surprise!

Notes:

  1. October
    2 is Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. October 4 to 12 are for Hindus
    Navarathri (nine nights of spiritual struggle), followed on October 13
    by Vijayadashami, the tenth day of spiritual victory. And for
    Buddhists, Vassa (rainy season of spiritual reflection) ends on October
    18 with the full moon day, Pavarana.
  2. Some possible actions are
    listed below. These should be understood as suggestions; communities
    and congregations should choose their own approaches.

    • Clusters
      of congregations a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a temple could
      arrange for each congregation to host one meal for members of the
      others, after nightfall on any of the evenings of Ramadan.
    • Congregations
      could arrange public Interfaith Walks for Peace and Reconciliation that
      go between church, synagogue, and mosque, pausing at each for prayer.
    • Jews
      could invite Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus into the
      Sukkah, a leafy hut that is open to the earth. Traditionally, "sacred
      guests" are invited in and the Rabbis taught that during Sukkot,
      blessings are invoked upon "the seventy nations" of the world.
      Traditional prayers implore God to "spread the sukkah of shalom" over
      us. These are perfect rubrics for peacemaking among the children of
      humanity and with the earth.
    • Muslims could invite other
      communities to join in celebrating Iftar (the break-fast) after sunset
      on a night of Ramadan. For some aspects of Eid el-Fitr (the feast at
      the end of Ramadan), Jews and Christians could (as in Morocco) bring
      food to the celebration of the end of Ramadan’s fasting.
    • Churches
      could invite other communities to join in learning about and
      celebrating the teachings of Francis of Assisi. He was practically
      unique among the Christian leaders of his day in opposing the Crusades,
      learning in a serious way from Muslim teachers (even to the extent of
      transforming his own prayer practice), and becoming deeply dedicated to
      kinship with the earth and all living creatures.
    • Synagogues
      could invite Muslim scholars and spiritual leaders to teach on Rosh
      Hashanah when Jews are reading the Torah passages on the story of
      Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael, Sarah, and Isaac, how it is that Muslims
      understand that story. Then there could be open discussion of the
      differences, the similarities, the wisdom held in each of the versions
      of the story. Synagogues could set aside a time to read and discuss the
      Torah’s story of the joining of Isaac and Ishmael to bury their father
      Abraham, and then to achieve reconciliation at the Well of the Living
      One Who Sees Me.
    • Congregations could undertake actions to
      protect human rights by making public the plights of those detained
      without trials, often without access to counsel or to families, those
      disappeared, and those being subjected to torture; could create a
      series of evenings to look together at the texts in their traditions
      that have been misused to justify violence against other communities,
      and shape occasions of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation;
      could create seminars and public actions on the global climate crisis,
      religious perspectives on it, and Beyond Oil support for sustainable
      energy sources; etc.
  3. The Jewish Committee for
    Isaiah’s Vision is an ad hoc group of more than 100 rabbis and other
    Jewish leaders, echoing Isaiah’s call that is read on Yom Kippur
    morning. [full list of signers]
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