By Br. André Maria
Just a little over 800 years
ago, an incredible, beautiful, and very unlikely event took place in this
divided and often cruel world in which we live. It was divided then as it is
now. It was cruel then as it often is now.
At the center of this event were two Holy men from two very different
cultures and two different religions.
One man was the person that the world now knows as Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of one of the largest groups of Christian communities of religious and lay men and women in the world, which is also ecumenically represented globally. The other man was Al-Malik al-Kamil, the devoutly Muslim Sultan of Palestine, Syria, and Egypt.
Until quite recently, very few people were aware of this historically significant meeting, including many members of the various Franciscan communities around the world, whose venerable founder was, as it has been noted, present at this meeting.
The setting for this momentous meeting and event, was the Fifth Crusade and the siege of the Egyptian city of Damietta, which is located along a tributary of the Nile River rather near the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Francis was traveling with his companion, Illuminatus, who, it is said, had a basic knowledge of and skill with the Arabic language. The probable reason for the meeting was the desire by Francis to convert the Sultan to Christianity.
Efforts at conversion, at the time, place, and political climate in the region at which the meeting took place, could have cost Francis his life. In fact, some sources say that, at the very least, Francis was quite open to what would have effectively been seen as his invitation to martyrdom. Other sources clearly hint at the strong possibility that death, as a result of such a meeting, was clearly something Francis was very aware of and accepted.
We are Franciscan Friars dedicated to the vows of simplicity, fidelity, and unity. We write these articles as we are inspired. They cover a broad range of topics with an emphasis on liturgy, spirituality, and working with people in search of meaning and purpose.