To commemorate the historic encounter between St Francis of Assisi with the Sultan of Egypt, AL-Kamil in the year 1219, Christians and Muslims held a special ceremony launch a year of events to promote tolerance, dialogue and a common commitment to peace.
The National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Pakistan, organised the meeting with eminent Muslim scholars to inaugurate the activities that, in 2019, will commemorate the event in Pakistan 800 years ago, in the name of Islamic-Christian dialogue.
Franciscan Sebastian Shaw, Archbishop of Lahore and President of the Commission, presided over the ceremony, held on January 12 in Lahore. Fr Francis Nadeem, Custodian of the Capuchin Friars in Pakistan, Executive Secretary of the Commission also lead the event. Franciscans, nuns, priests, lay people and eminent Muslim scholars from Sialkot, Gujranwala and Islamabad came Lahore for the occasion.
Fr Nadeem said, the two great leaders, Francis and Al-kamil, “spoke up for peace and tolerance amid the atmosphere of war and conflict during the crusades. They gave an example of interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding.”
At the beginning of the ceremony a painting was unveiled that depicts the encounter between St Francis of Assisi and Al-Kamil, while the doves were released, symbolizing the hope of spreading the message of peace in Pakistan and especially in the areas in which there are religious and political conflicts.
Capuchin Friar Shahzad Khokher OFM Cap then presented the background, the historical context and the significance of this historical meeting, and Archbishop Shaw encouraged everyone present to “be ambassadors of peace, inspired by the example shown by these great leaders”. “I admire the passion and courage of Francis of Assisi, who wanted to go to the Sultan during the war”, he said, reiterating that “this event drives us all to live in peace, harmony, tolerance and solidarity.”