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Reaching Across the Abyss
Here's a little item my dad sent to me. He is a Franciscan. In these troubled times, I felt that the message is important: We have to reach out to unite in peace with all of God's children.
Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Shazdeh Abdul Hussein's Prayer
O God of our Fathers,
protect our children and our family from atrocities,
give us peace, and help us to be able to raise our children as you wanted us to do,
pious and helpful to all of humanity.
Give our people and our country peace and justice and help us to have faith and hope.
Help us to provide for our families and help us not to fail in our responsibilities.
The Prayer of St. Francis is one of the most widely known and universally loved prayers. St. Francis of
Assisi was a man who could cross any chasm anywhere inflicted by fear, hatred or indifference, and he could do
so without any concern to his own welfare. To him, each human being, each creature, each stone, each drop of
rain or a ray of sun was part of God’s Creation and therefore lovable and perfect. One of the most famous stories
about St. Francis is his visit to Sultan Malik Al Kamil during the Crusades in the 13th century. Francis had observed the unbelievable cruelties the Crusaders were inflicting on the population and on the enemy soldier.
One day he prayed and then walked into the enemy camp, asking to be brought to see the Sultan. To the great
astonishment of everyone, St. Francis was not only allowed to see the Sultan and speak with him, he was allowed
to leave the camp again- unharmed! Eight hundred years have passed since this powerful example of one man
simply wanting to visit his enemy and talk to him, rather than killing him, and the story is much admired and
much beloved around the globe still today.
In our times we can clearly see not much has changed since the days of the Crusades. Man continues to
try to solve problems with bombs, tanks, guns, poisons, and mutual hatred. Wars haunt the civil population, and every newspaper; TV station and the Internet are filled with the eternal pictures so familiar that we are barely even taking them in anymore. I am speaking of pictures of devastated cities, burned out tanks, still smoking ruins, and the eternal picture of women holding their dead in their arms, as they look heavenward and are weeping.
I was born and raised in Switzerland and I live in Northern California. I am a Secular Franciscan, which
means I follow the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi in my daily life and I am an avid reader. One day I purchased a book in our little town called “Daughter of Persia”1. It described vividly the life of a truly remarkable woman who was born and raised in Iran and who struggled to alleviate the unbelievable poverty around her in the midst of political upheavals none of us can even begin to imagine. She founded a school for social workers, after studying sociology in Los Angeles, and she sacrificed everything she had for her people and her school, only to
have it wrenched brutally from her during the Islamic Revolution of the 1970ies. She finally had to leave her
beloved country and now lives in California. It is the type of book which I have always found spell-binding and I was soon engrossed in it, being a fellow social worker myself as well as a globe trotter. But foremost, it brought home the depth of the abyss of not understanding a people who is completely strange and foreign to us. I finished the book with a feeling of tremendous admiration for the magnificent and noble woman who had written
it and who had given so much, only to be driven out by fear and jealousy. So I looked her up on the Internet and
found her e-mail address. I wanted her to know how much I admired her and how much I learned from her, so I
did something I have not done since I was a silly teenager; I wrote her fan-letter! To my delight and great surprise she answered me and we began to exchange letters, with me telling her about St. Francis and the Sultan, and with her graciously replying that she loved the beautiful Prayer of St. Francis I had sent to her and that she had shared it with her family and; she had memorized it!!!
Being stunned by this graciousness on her part, I felt an idea growing in my heart. If she can pray one of
our prayers, why could we not pray one of hers? So I asked her to send me a prayer she knew and liked from her
people, not an accredited and famous prayer, rather just a prayer she herself and her family pray. She sent me the here included prayer of her father, whose name was Abdul Hussein. It brought tears to my eyes to see these prayers side by side. Then it dawned on me; this can be sent to everyone I know, this can be sent to everyone I don’t know, and this can be sent to people of all creeds, cultures, faiths and colors and to all continents. We have learned, and continue to learn daily, bombs don’t work, tanks don’t work. Politics, diplomacy, and the ever popular “dialoguing” does not work. We are on the brink of world wide disaster. There is but one thing left; we have to get down on our knees and pray.
Sattareh and I don’t know each other personally and will most likely never meet. But thanks to modern
technology we were able to get in touch, reach out to each other and accept each other for who and what we are; two women from two different cultures and creeds, but both of us are women of faith and prayer. This is St. Francis and the Sultan re-visited in our times and we both pray that whoever reads this will see with the heart and will see the need; we have to get on our knees and pray; pray to the God of us all, the Father of us all, who loves us all. If all who read this and follow the example of two extra ordinary men 800 years ago, the bombs will stop, one by one, and somewhere in some corner of our suffering world, someone will lay down his gun or his knife and see the enemy as a brother. So let us pray around the globe every day the prayers of those two men.
Rita Sophia Karvonen, SFO, firstname.lastname@example.org