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Grounded in the Franciscan tradition of tolerance, peacemaking, and social justice, In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan tells the true story of a 13th century peace initiative between Francis of Assisi and Malek al-Kamil, the leader of the Muslim forces of the Levant. Perfect for group studies or Christian/Muslim dialogue groups, this DVD features two segments of about 22 minutes each, complimented by a leader's guide.
Part I of the film shows how the Franciscan model for interfaith dialogue developed and how that openness to dialogue, rooted in a fundamental respect for the other, is a pathway to peace.
Part II looks at how the encounter of Francis and the sultan was interpreted through art during the past eight years.
Vendor: Franciscan Media
Publication Date: 2013
Jayasri (Joyce) Hart produces, directs, and edits documentaries. In her independent projects, she explores little-known nuggets of history that have contemporary relevance. Roots in the Sand, featuring a California immigrant community of men from India and women from Mexico, offers insights into the complicated political landscape of U.S. naturalization. Sisters of Selma, about Catholic nuns in Martin Luther King's Voting Rights campaign, is an immersive experience of a time and place where issues of race, gender, and social justice intersected in America. Originally from India, where she made programs for All-India Radio and Doordarshan (Indian TV), she now lives and works in the Los Angeles area with her husband, writer William Hart.
[T]here was one remarkable event, often only mentioned in passing in church history books and even biographies of the saint, when Francis set out for Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. At that time, the Muslims still controlled Jerusalem, but to reach there, the crusaders decided to first capture the fortress of Damietta in Egypt and gain control of the Nile River. The film tells us, however, that Francis did not "buy the pope's call to war but goes instead to embrace the Muslims." When the crusaders laughed at Francis and dismissed him as he tried to convince them not to fight, he decided to meet the sultan. He and Brother Illuminato entered the sultan's camp, where they were treated as spies then brought to Sultan al-Kamil.
No one actually knows what was said since Francis did not speak Arabic and the sultan didn't speak whatever French-Italian dialect Francis used. It was their way of being together, the attitude of mutual respect and understanding, as well as their belief in one God, prayer, kindness to the poor, and peace that certainly appealed to both men.
When Francis returned home, he even amended the rule he had written for his brothers, saying that those who feel called to go to Muslims should be allowed to do so. In 1272, a sultan allowed the Franciscans to settle in the Cenacle in Jerusalem. In 1342, Pope Clement VI named the Franciscans the custodians of the Holy Land "in the name of the Catholic church."
The goal of Francis and the Sultan 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 modeled 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.
The cover art for the DVD is by Franciscan iconographer Robert Lentz, who by his art wants to dispel the myths about the encounter between Francis and the sultan perpetrated first by Francis' biography of St. Bonaventure and then by art, beginning with the early Renaissance. Here, he shows Francis and the sultan as equals, where other depictions show Francis preaching and in a position of power. Part two of the film is a lesson in cultural and artistic analysis and the importance of questioning the images we often take for granted.
The thing that impressed me most about this film is its warmth, lucidity and gentle hope, and the dedication of Sr. Kathy Warren, who also narrates the film, to see this project through in these post-Sept. 11 years. And though more than a decade has passed since the attacks on the World Trade Center, the need for interreligious dialogue is stronger than ever.Sr. Rose Pacatte, National Catholic Reporter