“The Sultan and the Saint”: A lesson for Muslims and Christians in Mindanao

This is a special time for us in Mindanao. On one side there is the fear of an increasing terrorism and the spread of the ISIS and Maute “ideology”. On the other side, the initiatives of   Christian – Muslim dialogue are more visible also among Muslim religious leaders who condemn the “terrorism” and the use of Islam to justify violence.  This is a positive development that Silsilah follows as signs of hope.

In this Oasis News we are not focusing our attention on a social analysis on violence and terrorism but we hope that as in other times of history with conflicts and divisions a new beginning of “reconciliation” will emerge. With this spirit we recall what happened eight centuries ago during the crusades and we try to “dream peace” today   for the future peace of Mindanao. At the same time we can affirm that already we see the many good stories of dialogue and peace in Mindanao, even these months during and after the Marawi siege and the natural calamities that are adding more suffering among our people.
“The Sultan and the Saint” is an award-winning film about a historic dialogue between different faiths. It is a true story of peaceful discussions between two men of faith, the Muslim ruler Sultan Al-Kamel and the Christian Francis of Assisi, who later became one of Christianity’s most revered saints. Their encounter took place in Egypt during the Crusades, at the height of east-west tensions, in Damietta, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Cairo.

The Egyptian journalist Salwa Samir commented on this film saying: “Combining fast-paced action and interviews with renowned historians and religious scholars who comment on the events and dialogue between the two men, the film illuminates the desire of the two main characters for peace and their love of God. Francis, who is a travelling preacher at the time and has yet to become one of the most important scholars of the Christian faith, keeps warning against war and urges forgiveness — views in sharp contrast with those of many other Christians. The film shows Sultan Al-Kamel, the nephew of the great Muslim ruler Saladin, as holding beliefs similar to those of Francis and as sharing a warm relationship with Christians (the Copt),  ‘God creates us to get to know each other, not to quarrel’  as  the sultan says in one of the scenes of the film.”
We recalled  the encounter of the Sultan and Frances of Assisi  last March  in one of our Oasis News to  share the encounter  of the  head  of El-Azhar University, Imam   Ahamad al-Tayyeb  with  Pope Francis  first in Rome and after a few months  in Egypt.  Now we are   recalling the same event in solidarity with the Franciscan communities around the world who are celebrating the eight centuries of this encounter and we are called to reflect: “What about us?”
It is true that there are many alarming situations in Mindanao even now that the  war in Marawi is over but the   ideology of violence continue to  move in many ways, especially  motivated by fear, money, power and misunderstanding. It is time when religious leaders have to   act with more courage to bring   the mission of dialogue and peace to all sectors giving a special attention to communities   in the spirit of the encounter of Francis with the Sultan.  All of us have to remember that indeed what the sultan said to Francis is valid also now. He said: “God creates us to get to know each other, not to quarrel.” In the process to know each other we discover the defence of our faith. This is the time to say also to our people: “we reaffirm that we are different on our faith and we respect the faith of the other.  The most important thing is to be faithful to what we believe and in the process to respect people of other faiths because we are one in the same humanity, we are created by the same God and we are brothers and sisters”.

This is what Silsilah continues to share with all since 1984. Our mission of dialogue and peace is based on the spiritual values that each one of us can discover and experience in the variety of our religious belief. The values of respect, mercy, love and the need to work together for the common good.
Thanks to God there are already many good  stories in Mindanao that   reaffirm this  spirit  of dialogue and peace.  We can also recall many stories during the time of the siege in Zamboanga in 2013 and now in Marawi.
Meanwhile we invite all to be vigilant in Mindanao. We also encourage all to collect and share good stories.  There are those who say that we need a more visible   presence of the military to counteract ISIS and other elements and groups who use violence, but we believe that we also need to have more respect and love for each in the variety of our different religions.  Until this remains only a dream of a few but not shared by the majority, we will always have conflict and more gap among sectors of our society.

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