Francis and al-Kamil show the way to peace May 17, 2013Posted by Ted Witham in : Resources , trackback
Kathleen A. Warren OSF, and others, In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: A Model for Peacemaking, Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media 2013.
DVD-ROM ($US 19.99 + postage from Franciscan Media; from other suppliers > $15) plus free on-line resource material.
The encounter at Damietta between St Francis and Malek Al-Kamil the sophisticated Muslim ruler of Egypt has been told and illustrated many times over the centuries. Nearly all of these accounts have been written by Europeans including Thomas of Celano, Bonaventure, the bishop Jacques de Vitry. Most Western artists have depicted Francis above the Sultan, preaching, winning debates and contests by fire. Only very recently, possibly since September 11, 2001, have writers and artists shown an encounter of equals. Brother Robert Lentz OFM has written the icon of which a portion is the cover photo for this DVD. He indicates clearly that the two holy men are on the same level. The Christian halo and the Islamic fire (both signifying saintliness) both honour both men.
Sister Kathleen Wallace has been researching and exploring this meeting for some years. The DVD is one fruit of this research. Her other main product is a book completed in 2003 and republished in 2012 by Wipf and Stock called Daring to Cross the Threshold: Francis of Assisi Encounters Sultan Malek al-Kamil. The book appears to be the academic and ecclesial support for the DVD.
The DVD, produced with film-maker Jaysri (Joyce) Hart, is a fascinating resource based on the meeting between Francis and the Sultan. It consists of two segments of 22 minutes each, 50 pages of online materials, plus recommendations for other resources. These are free and can be found at www.FranciscanMedia.org/francissultan.
The first part of the DVD shows the differing versions of the story. The second segment encourages the viewers to use the story as a basis for making peace, particularly in interfaith dialogue. The shots in Brother Robert Lentz’s workshop, as he creates a triptych of modern icons, are visually stunning.
The online resources suggest ways of using the DVD in groups, ranging from a one-hour session through to a whole day of reflection. These would be particularly useful for groups of Tertiaries, both in guiding groups through discussion and in preparing people for action ‘in the field’: not just talking among ourselves but also how to initiate interfaith dialogue. Sister Kathleen urges her fellow-American Christians not to assume that there are no Muslims in their community. Muslims are likely to be there, and a first step is meeting them and engaging them in general conversation. This observation is true of Australia, too. We moved to the regional town of Busselton six years ago. I assumed, lazily, that if there were any Muslims in town, they certainly wouldn’t be practising. But I have made friends with my barber from Morocco, who prays five times daily (in the tiny space behind the barber’s shop), and who, along with his wife and brother and the owners of the Halal fast-food stall, travels every Friday he can to prayers in the mosque in Bunbury.
A variety of guidelines for dialogue, including specifically Franciscan considerations, are given and explained.
Neither the DVD nor the online resources lived up to the claim that the meeting between the Sultan and saint was ‘a model for peacemaking’. The emphasis is much more on interfaith explorations, and the occasional reference to making peace with the Other was generalised. Those seeking instructions on non-violent peace-making for Franciscans would do much better to use the resources of Pace E Bene (www.paceebene.org and www.paceeebene.org.au).
Apart from this reservation, I have no hesitation in recommending this DVD for Tertiaries to watch, reflect on, discuss in groups, and act on.