An instrument of peace

By Fr Walter Fogarty, 11 July 2017
According to the legend of their meeting, St Francis was willing to step into fire in order to convert the Sultan. 'Trial by Fire', Giotto. Image: Wikiart Commons

Amid a growing climate of mistrust and misunderstanding the film The Sultan and the Saint reminds all Catholics and all peoples of faith of the need to reach out to others with an open heart as a means of nurturing peace.

The docudrama recalls the historic meeting 800 years ago between St Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt, Malik Al-Kamil, in the midst of the conflict of the Fifth Crusade. Using dramatic re-enactments based on credible scholarship, the film recounts how St Francis and his companion crossed the no-go land between the opposing Christian and Muslim armies to visit the Sultan’s camp where he spent some days meeting with the Sultan and his court.

Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of Franciscan Action Network, a partner in the film’s production, said St Francis and Al-Kamil are a testament to what following faith means. “It’s very important that Christians and Muslims are in a relationship with each other, to learn from each other,” he said.

“Recalling an historical encounter between two people who sought peace in the midst of war The Sultan and the Saint reminds us that today we, too, must have a vision of peace grounded in dialogue, to dare to speak when so many refuse to,” said Rev Walter Fogarty, Chair of the Diocese of Parramatta’s Interfaith Commission.

St John Paul II, speaking at the inaugural interfaith World Day of Prayer in Assisi in 1986, recalled how St Francis is “known and revered by so many throughout the world as a symbol of peace, reconciliation and brotherhood.”

Explaining his symbolic choice of Assisi for the interfaith gathering, John Paul squarely addressed the issue to interfaith dialogue, seen by some in the Catholic Church as controversial. The Pope stated, “The fact we have come here [to Assisi] does not imply any intention of seeking a religious consensus… or of negotiating our faith convictions… Nor is it a concession to relativism in religious beliefs, because every human being must sincerely follow his or her upright conscience with the intention of seeking and obeying the truth.

“Our meeting attests only… that in the great battle of peace, humanity, in its very diversity, must draw from its deepest and most vivifying sources where its conscience is formed and upon which is founded the moral actions of all people… Religions are many and varied, and they reflect the desire of men and women down through the ages to enter into relationship with the Absolute Being.”

The Australian premiere of The Sultan & The Saint will held be at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta South Campus on Saturday 29 July, commencing at 7.00pm. The film runs for an hour and will be followed by a formal response from a Muslim theologian, Assoc Professor Mehmet Ozalp, and a Franciscan Friar, Br Matthew Beckmann OFM. Audience discussion will continue over refreshments.

The Sultan & The Saint contributes to the fostering of dialogue and peace so desperately need in our world today by challenging others to follow the example of St Francis and Malik Al-Kamil.


Screening Location: Sir Ian and Nancy Turbott Auditorium, Building EE, Room G.19
Cnr Victoria Road and James Ruse Drive, Parramatta (entry from Victoria Road)
Tickets: $10.00 from Eventbrite
Click here for further details about the screening.
For more information about the film, click here.

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