A model for Christian-Muslim dialogue

In the wake of the suicide bombing at a Coptic Christian Church in Egypt on New Year’s Day, which killed 21 people and wounded almost a hundred more, Pope Benedict has called for a second gathering of world religious leaders in Assisi this October to mark the 25th anniversary of the first “World Day of Prayer for Peace,” hosted by John Paul II in 1986.

Choosing St. Francis as the patron for a gathering on peace and inter-religious dialogue is a no-brainer; but Paul Moses, author of The Saint and the Sultan, says that we should also look to Egypt’s own Sultan Malik al-Kamil, with whom Francis had such a fruitful encounter during the Crusades, as a model of “Muslim respect for Christian holiness”:

Medieval accounts from the Coptic Church, the ancient church of Egypt, praise Sultan al-Kamil for his tolerance. He ruled in Coptic Christians’ favor when a dispute broke out about whether to build a church or mosque on a Cairo site. Coptic Christians paraded happily in the streets of Cairo on another occasion when he favored them in a dispute over possession of gold vessels and other treasures discovered during the construction of a well in a monastery.

He also dealt wisely with Coptic Christians when called to decide a controversy within their church over who would become the patriarch. And when he defeated the invading Christian army in the Fifth Crusade, he shocked the starving crusaders by feeding them and assuring their transport home. At the same time, he was a loyal Sunni Muslim who built religious schools and a beautiful domed memorial to one of Islam’s great scholars, Iman al-Shafi’i.

 

Moses points out that even schoolchildren in Egypt are familiar with the sultan’s story, “viewing him as a leader who was both kind and strong.” As tensions mount between present-day Copts and Muslims — as well as between Christians and the Egyptian government — we could do worse than to urge the sultan’s example to faithful Muslims and Christians alike.

Margaret Cabaniss

By

Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

Crisis Magazine Comments Policy

This is a Catholic forum. As such:

  1. All comments must directly address the article. “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.” (Matthew 12:36)
  2. No profanity, ad hominems, hot tempers, or racial or religious invectives. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. We will not tolerate heresy, calumny, or attacks upon our Holy Mother Church or Holy Father. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  4. Keep it brief. No lengthy rants or block quotes. “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
  5. If you see a comment that doesn’t meet our standards, please flag it so a moderator may remove it. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1)
  6. All comments may be removed at the moderators’ discretion. “But of that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36)
  7. Crisis isn’t responsible for the content of the comments box. Comments do not represent the views of Crisis magazine, its editors, authors, or publishers. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God… So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10, 12)
MENU