To mark the 800th anniversary of an historic encounter between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al-Kamil in September 1219, an Interfaith discussion day is being organised by the Third Order, The Society of St Francis (TSSF).
In order to counter the spread of Islam and capture the Holy Land, the religious and political powers of Christian Europe waged ‘holy war’ on Muslim ‘infidels.’ Francis felt compelled to travel to Egypt in 1219, during the Fifth Crusade, to try and stop the ongoing bloodshed. When he arrived at the battle line, he crossed over. He bore no weapon, but requested an audience with the Sultan because he wanted to present the Christian gospel to him.
As it turns out, the Sultan did not convert to Christianity. He did, however, listen to Francis and offered the best of Middle Eastern hospitality.
Eight centuries later, members of the TSSF in Ireland are considering what might be learned from Francis and the Sultan today to guide interfaith exchanges.
The Interfaith Discussion Day takes place on Saturday September 28 from 10.30am-3.30pm, at the Skainos Centre, 241 Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 1AF.
Guest speakers will include Bishop Trevor Williams, Naomi Green (Belfast Islamic Centre), Alison Jones, who has extensive experience of interfaith work in Tower Hamlets, London, and the Rev Suzanne Cousins, author of ‘Generous Love in Multifaith Ireland.’ The recently released film, The Sultan and the Saint, will also be shown to mark the anniversary.
Booking is essential, please visit https:/tssf-belfast.eventbrite.co.uk or contact Jo Pawson Tel 07790 241263. Suggested donation is £10 for attendance, and this includes lunch. Unwaged and students free but must still register.