07/14/2011 11:29 am ET Updated Sep 13, 2011

The Praying for Peace Initiative

In January this year I was part of creating the Praying for Peace Initiative. Our founding meeting happened just outside Santa Fe. That same evening we gazed across the high desert landscape of New Mexico and saw the distant lights of the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the atom bombs that killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese in the final days of World War II were designed and tested. We need to find new ways of establishing peace.

The Praying for Peace Initiative is a movement to pray for peace especially within the household of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar. The shadow side of Christianity, Islam and Judaism is at the heart of some of the most conflicted places of hatred and violence in our world today. Without peace among the three prophetic faiths there will not be peace among us as nations. Without a recovered sense of relationship within the family of Abraham, hundreds of thousands will continue to be sacrificed in the name of peace.

The Quran says, "Return evil with good and your enemy will become your friend" (Revelations Well Expounded 41:34). It is this wisdom that we desperately need to recover. And it is this wisdom that lies deep in the family line of Abraham. As we say in one of the prayers of our Praying for Peace Initiative:

May our enemy become our friend, O God,
that we may share earth's goodness.
May our enemy become our friend, O God,
that our children may meet and marry.
May our enemy become our friend, O God,
that we may remember our shared birth in you.
May we grow in grace
may we grow in gratitude
may we grow in wisdom
that our enemy may become our friend.

(from Praying with the Earth: A Prayer Book for Peace, 2011)

How do we remember our shared birth? How do we release in one another the memory that our common inheritance is greater than the differentiations that distinguish us? This is true among us as Jews and Christians and Muslims. It is equally true among all the great spiritual traditions of humanity. Our origins are deeper than our separations. The shared roots of the human soul sustain our multiplicity of religious manifestations. Again and again we point to the same truth, that we are born of the One and that we will be well to the extent that we reconnect to the One. How are we to restore this memory in ways that will change the way we live -- as individuals, as nations and as a species?

A number of years ago my wife and I took a pilgrimage across the Sinai Peninsula. We were accompanied by an Egyptian desert guide and a Bedouin cook. On the last day we ascended Mount Sinai for sunset and prayed at the three sacred sites of prayer -- one Jewish, one Christian and one Muslim. We descended in silence under the moon's white light. At the foot of the mountain is the 4th-century monastery of St. Catherine's where we were to spend the night. Within the walls of the monastic community there is a burning bush revered by Jewish pilgrims and a mosque prayed in by visiting Muslims. Yet under the moon's light it all looked one.

Carl Jung said that we need to recover "moon-like consciousness." It is a way of seeing that will bring balance to our predominantly sun-like consciousness. Think of what it is like walking under the light of the moon. Under the moon's light we more readily see the oneness of everything that surrounds us. The lines that differentiate one object from another are softened. They are less harsh and defined. Under the sun's light, on the other hand, we do see the distinction of parts. We see the uniqueness of every object. The reality is that we need both. We need the day's way of seeing and the night's. We need the rational and the mystical, the "luna" eye, as Jung calls it, as well as the sun's eye.

We have tended to see one another in terms of our differentiations. This is one way of seeing. It is essential and we must retain it if our radical individualities are to be cherished. But it is only one way of seeing. Equally essential is to see the whole. This is the vision that the Praying for Peace Initiative is committed to recovering. Peace will be served by bringing back into relationship again the separate strands of the family of Abraham, just as earth's wellbeing will be served by weaving again the separate strands of creation.

All things are born of you, O God.
We carry within us your light and your life.
In the mystery of matter
and deep in the cells of our souls
are your longings for oneness.
The oneness of the universe
vast and vibrating with the sound of its beginning.
The oneness of the earth
greening and teeming as a single body.
The oneness of the human soul
a sacred countenance in infinite form.
Grant us your longings for oneness, O God,
amidst life's glorious multiplicities.

(from Praying with the Earth: A Prayer Book for Peace, 2011)