In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: A Model for Peacemaking

Kathleen Warren, O.S.F., and Jayasri (Joyce) HartVideo
Run Time: N/A

Publisher: Franciscan Media (2013)
ISBN: 9781616365448


Kathleen Warren, O.S.F., is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester, Minnesota. She holds an M.A. in religious education from Loyola University, Chicago; a master's degree in Franciscan Studies from the Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure University; and a Doctor of Ministry from the Graduate Theological Foundation, South Bend, Indiana. Since 2002, Sr. Kathy, a specialist in interreligious dialogue, has been involved in Muslim-Christian interaction, offering workshops and retreats around the country on topics related to peacemaking and interreligious encounter, particularly from a Franciscan perspective. Sr. Kathy also serves as a guide for Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, accompanying pilgrims of all faiths in exploring the message of Francis and Clare of Assisi by visiting the places where they lived and ministered in Italy.

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.


When it was announced March 13 that the church had a new pope who had taken the name Francis, the first thing that popped into my head was, "St. Francis was the first one to reach out to Islam." This fact had just recently had been reinforced when I screened a new documentary from Franciscan Media, In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: a Model for Peacemaking."

…[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

In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: A Model for Peacemaking

$ 19.99

$ 19.99
In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: A Model for Peacemaking
$ 19.99

This two-part film explores a little-known thirteenth-century peace initiative in the Middle East involving Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malek al-Kamil. In 1219, during the Fifth Crusade, Francis took it upon himself to cross battle lines and reach out to the enemy. These countercultural efforts of Francis, a simple friar, and Malek al-Kamil, the leader of the Muslim forces of the Levant, made these men most unusual in their time. This video examines their efforts on behalf of peace in order to help us, in our time, negotiate interfaith misunderstanding and hostility, and other difficult encounters between conflicting peoples.

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