NEW DELHI, 19/03/2016: Indialogue Foundation convened a lecture on “The Sultan and Saint Francis: The Value Of Muslim-Christian Interfaith Dialogue” and the talk was delivered by Professor Wm. Lloyd Allen, Sylvan Hills Baptist Church Professor of Church History and Spiritual Formation (School of Theology, Mercer University, USA) a Ph.D. on Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Master of Divinity 1978, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, B.S. 1974, University of Montevallo, Alabama.
The coordinator of the lecture initiated by welcoming delegates and giving an overview of Indialogue Foundation and his emphasis was more on the foundation’s main working sphere of dialogue. Later, the chair of the session Father Victor Edwin SJ took over to proceed further.
Speaking on the occasion the professor Lloyd thanked the audience present at the lecture and said that being present in this weekend to discuss upon this kind of crucial issue of dialogue is the need of the hour and the people present are the one who really cares, cares about the peace and harmony and peace building.
Coming over the designated topic of the lecture Professor Wm Lloyd Allen starts with recalling the historical dialogue occurred between the Sultan AL-Kamil (nephew of Sultan Saladin) and St. Francis of Assisi. Elaborating in detail he furnished that St. Francis of Assisi became one of the greatest examples of interfaith dialogue in medieval Christianity. While he originally intended to enter Sultan al-Kamil’s camp to either convert him to Christianity or be martyred in the process, he accomplished neither. Instead, through his actions, he taught al-Kamil to have an appreciation of Christianity, and al-Kamil influenced Francis to respect Islam for the rest of the monk’s life. Truly, Sultan AL-Kamil and St. Francis offered a solution to the problem of the Crusades that opposed warfare or conversion by the sword but instead allowed open talking and listening to the other viewpoint. Unfortunately, throughout time, church leaders and other historians would lose the significance and meaning of this unique encounter, but in the modern era, some historians have realized the importance of Francis’ visit with the Sultan. As a result, some modern interfaith workers from Christian, Muslim, and other faith traditions attempt to continue the progress made by St. Francis towards a peaceful solution to the divisiveness that religious difference has caused. By understanding this history of St. Francis’ relationship with Malik al-Kamil, these interfaith activists can realize the precedent set by the saint and the sultan
The lecture was full of vibrant discussions. The first intervention came from Mr Mufazzal, a research Scholar from prestigious Jawahar Lal Nehru University who has raised question about the implications of the dialogue happened between the two known figures in the recent scenario where the Islam phobia is an evident phenomenon particularly after the 9/11 incident. Another sceptical gesture ensued in the same trajectory of Islam phobia by a lady participant from Germany. Combining both the questions together Professor replied that the clear implication of “Francis and the Sultan’s story” is to articulate and demonstrate the essence of interreligious dialogue and encourage viewers to actively participate in dialogic action with people who believe differently because without dialogue, the alternative is hostility and worse. The way to do this is modelled on how Francis and the Sultan were with one another, by starting with the respect they most certainly had for those things that we today hold in common, such as belief in the one true God, the centrality of God’s will in our lives, charity for the poor, and the desire for peace.
Following the question and answer session, the honourable chair of the occasion Father Victor Edwin, in his concluding remarks said that this inspiring incident of dialogue between two huge figures of the time, coming from two ends apart together to establish peace and harmony is a great example for whole of the humanity. He further added that this kind of interfaith dialogue is need of the hour and he further thanked the Professor for the lecture through which he conveyed his great insights and valuable inputs.