St Francis and Sultan Al-Kamil

Today is the Feast day for Saint Francis of Assisi, who lived from 1181–1226 in Italy as a Catholic priest and established the Franciscan order. He is popularly known for his care for creation and animals. Though, our executive director, Nina M. Fernando, likes to remind people of his work as an interreligious bridge builder and peacemaker.

Here’s an excerpt from an address Nina offered at The Eighth Assembly of the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace: Inclusive Citizenship: From Mutual Coexistence to Shared Conscience, on how St. Francis and his relationship with Sultan Al-Kamil can inspire us today.

“I come from a Sri Lankan Catholic family. For our family, our faith tradition was deeply intertwined with our cultural practices. My parents raised us in the Catholic tradition and taught us about our faith and who we were as Sri Lankan Americans while engaging in our broader community of family and friends who come from other faiths and backgrounds. When I was in school, I was asked to choose a faith figure whose example could inspire me in my spiritual growth and development. I chose St. Francis of Assisi, inspired by his prayerful writings.

St. Francis wrote,

Make me a channel of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me bring your love

Where there is despair in life, let me bring hope

Where there is darkness light

And where there’s sadness joy

I joined the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign staff in 2017 and only then learned about the remarkable historic meeting of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan Malik Al-Kamil in 1219, in the midst of the Fifth Crusade. Now, today, in the times we are living in, where marginalized religious and cultural communities around the world face escalating violence, where our communities are siloed and polarized, we need to see more leadership like St. Francis and the Sultan Al-Kamil. We need more leadership like H.E. Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and the great work of the Marrakesh Declaration. We need to see more work like the faith leaders who founded and now sustain the work at Shoulder to Shoulder. There is great power in reaching out across our differences in order to be a channel of G-d’s peace.

May we all strive to be a channel of peace. Thank you.”

To learn more about the unlikely friendship of St Francis and Sultan Al-Kamil check out Unity Production Films, The Sultan and the Saint https://www.sultanandthesaintfilm.com/

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Shoulder to Shoulder Camp

Shoulder to Shoulder is a coalition of 36 religious denominations and organizations committed to standing with American Muslims to advance American ideals