By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Supporters of a docudrama “The Sultan and the Saint” hope its premiere April 23 in Davenport will encourage interfaith dialogue and respect for people of all faiths.
They see urgency in sharing the 13th-century story of two men of faith from opposite sides of a brutal Christian-Muslim conflict who didn’t speak the same language but overcame that barrier to foster peace. “What makes this so compelling is the interreligious dialogue demonstrated 800 years ago between the Sultan (al-Kamil) and St. Francis of Assisi,” said Kent Ferris, a secular Franciscan who leads the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action Office.
“Their message is as important now as it was then — not only in our country, but around the world. That’s why I’m so excited about the screening here. There is a need for tolerance and respect of people of other faiths and other nationalities.”
As a point-up to the 3 p.m. screening at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Ferris will offer a 1 p.m. presentation on church teaching about interreligious dialogue at diocesan headquarters in the St. Vincent Center in Davenport. “We’ll look at church documents and the work that the U.S. bishops have undertaken, which are available to us as resources.” Both events are free.
The Muslim Community of the Quad Cities is a co-sponsor of the Davenport screening and its president, Lisa Zaynab Killinger, is excited to participate. “I hope that when people look at history as it actually occurred, they will see that Muslims weren’t barbarians or aggressors. They were working for peace,” she said.
St. Francis of Assisi, her favorite saint, “was working behind the scene amidst this terrible backdrop of violence to promote peace … we should be inspired by that story today,” Killinger added. In today’s political climate, she said, hatred against Muslims is being projected from the top levels of government. She noted that the CIA estimated that just 0.01 percent of Muslims globally are involved in or support terrorist groups. “Muslims are trying to improve their children’s lives, like we all would. We all want to make sure our children grow up safe.”
The Clinton Franciscans helped fund The Sultan and the Saint, a Unity Productions Foundation film. “I hope viewers will leave the movie with a renewed sense that, even when there is much violence in the world, peace is worth working for,” said Sister Marilyn Shea, OSF. “The seeds of peace are planted when people just take that first step to reach out, with loving hearts, across faith and ethnicity lines. Today, this message of hope is so very important.”
She hopes that Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths “will come away with a desire to learn more about one another, to dialogue honestly and respectfully, not expecting to convert one another to our own faith, but to recognize our common humanity and desire for peace just as St. Francis and Sultan al-Kamil did.”
In the introduction to her book “Daring to Cross the Threshold — Francis of Assisi Encounters Sultan Malek as-Kamil,” Sister Kathleen Warren, OSF, wrote, “Daring to cross over into the camp of those identified as ‘the enemy,’ Francis gained new insights about the human family… His encounter with Sultan Malek al-Kamil was an unprecedented venture that continues to offer the world a bold paradigm for Interreligious Dialogue.” Sr. Warren will attend the premiere.
As the next steps to take, Killinger suggested:
1. Reach out to others.
2. Plan to attend an open house in early May at the mosque in Bettendorf. “Get to know your Muslim neighbors and you will see there is more that unites us than divides us.”
3. On two Mondays in late September, attend the interfaith women’s conversations.
4. Invite local Muslims to participate in your church’s food drive, school supply collections, etc.
5. Attend a Friday night potluck at the Bettendorf mosque or Saturday night potluck at the mosque in Moline, Ill.