Interfaith friendship remembered and celebrated

The special friendship between St Francis of Assisi and the Muslim Sultan, Malik al Kamil of Egypt, during the Crusades will be commemorated with a celebration this September. 

800 years ago, amid a dreadful period of suffering and warfare between the Christian Crusaders and Muslim army, a catholic priest, later known as St Francis, developed an unlikely and warm friendship with Malik al Kamil, the ruling Muslim Sultan of the time.  

This interfaith encounter has since inspired friendship and dialogue across faiths and ethnic backgrounds and is still being remembered today by members in Leeds of the worldwide Anglican Society of Saint Francis (pictured). 

On Saturday, September 21 all are invited to the ShahJalai Jamie Masjid mosque from 11am until 1pm. It is to be a community celebration in Harehills, Leeds, for people to meet and make friends among Franciscans, community workers, students and parents from local schools. Reflecting the interfaith friendship formed 800 years ago on the fields of battle.

Before the end of term, pupils from five primary schools in Harehills also learnt of the meeting of St Francis and the Sultan. They thought of the links and friendships that can be made in their communities, between people whose families originate from different ethnic backgrounds. The schools received visits from their young imam, local Franciscan friars and ordained Christian tertiaries.

The project will be featured in a BBC programme in the autumn.

The Revd John Bennett, Area Minister for the local Franciscan Third Order, said, “The story of St Francis and the Sultan demonstrates that despite differences in religion, people of prayer can find common ground in their experiences of God.” 

“Dialogue demands that we really listen to each other. Before we can listen, we must see the other person as a precious human being, divinely loved.

“We hope people will come, ready to make friends on 21st September in Harehills.”

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