St. Francis of Assisi is well-known for inspiring millions of people over nearly a millenium, but it was his meeting with Muslim sultan al-Malik al-Kamil during the Crusades that showed the promise of radical non-violence as well as the challenges. Appalled by the brutality of the Crusades, Francis crossed the battle lines to meet with sultan al-Kamil. Francis sought to preach the gospel to the sultan even if it meant martyrdom. Instead, Francis received welcome and hospitality. Impressed by Francis’ courage and sincerity, Kamil invited him to stay for a week of conversation. Francis was impressed by the devotion of the Muslims he met, including their call to prayer and use of prayer beads (some say these led to the use of the Angelus and rosary). Neither converted the other, but they gained respect and learned from each other and parted as friends. Francis then tried to persuade Cardinal Pelagious Galvani to make peace with the sultan, but to no avail. On the other hand, Sultan al-Kamil was ready for peace. He provided humane treatment to the defeated Crusaders, in stark contrast to the atrocities committed by the Crusaders when they initially captured Damietta, and eventually succeeded in making a peace agreement with Frederick II in 1229.
For today, take a minute to reflect on these two quotes:
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy Peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” – attributed to St. Francis
“Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power.” – Oliverus Scholastica, referencing the treatment he received after being defeated and captured by Malik’s forces.