On November 14, 2019, the Conventual Franciscan Federation (CFF) hosted the annual St. Francis Forum in Ellicott City, Maryland. This year, the coordinators, Friars Michael Joseph LASKY (OLA) and John Ronald HEINZ (SJC), organized a symposium to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the meeting of Saint Francis and Sultan Malik Al-Kamil. The symposium was designed to complement a similar event held at the Seraphicum in Rome on October 31, 2019.
The St. Francis Forum featured seven Muslim and Christian speakers focusing on themes arising from the Abu Dhabi Declaration on “Human Fraternity”. There were eighty participants who augmented each presentation with excellent discussion, especially around topics of Black Islam in the United States.
Like its companion event at the Seraphicum, the forum concluded with a sense that “imagination” is needed to forge new paths of a culture of dialogue for peace. The final discussion of the symposium focused on the role of contemporary art in interreligious dialogue, as a means of mutual cooperation and reciprocal understanding.
The poetry of the Sufi Poet Rumi, a contemporary of St. Francis and Malik al-Kamil, served as a lens through which to better understand the Damietta encounter. Rumi wrote:
Be like the sun for grace and mercy.
Be like the night to cover others’ faults.
Be like running water for generosity.
Be like death for rage and anger.
Be like the Earth for modesty.
Appear as you are, be as you appear.
Friar Michael Joseph LASKY