800 years ago, at a time when Christians and Muslims were locked in conflict, St Francis of Assisi and a companion, Illuminato, crossed enemy lines and entered into the Sultan's camp. He met with Sultan Malik al Kamil in 1219 in Damietta, Egypt, during the 5th crusades.
He came with a simple message, ‘Peace be upon you,’ which echoed the Muslim greeting, 'Assalam Walekum' & response ‘Walekum Assalam’. Maybe that is why he was accepted and given an opportunity to share his faith.
St. Francis never spoke against Muhammad or his Message or implied that the Sultan was wrong. He was therefore willing to listen to Francis speak of why he followed his Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Gentle conversation, mutual respect, being honourably received, and eating together. These were all hallmarks of the encounter. Francis even helped broker a peace agreement, resulting in a ceasefire. This encounter between Sultan and Saint represents a vibrant model of interfaith engagement and faith-sharing that is highly relevant in these times of conflict. And it is symbolised in the act of meeting and eating together.
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2Th. 3:16)
Phil Simpson, member of the Christian faith
Date: Monday 6th July 2020