Lahore: March 6, 2019. (Haroon Gill) A Franciscan Symposium was held at St. Mary’s Gulberg, Lahore on Feb. 28, 2019 on the topic of “Encounter of St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan and Our Role Today”. The main resource person was Fr. Benedict Ayodi OFM Cap, Secretary – Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Rome, Italy.
Fr. Benedict began his talk by describing the historical background and context of the encounter of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt as the attitude of the church towards Islam and Muslim was very confused due to lack of knowledge and information. St. Francis tried to stop the 5th Crusade as he crossed over into enemy territory while putting his life in danger. St. Francis and Sultan exchanged the greetings of peace when they met and realized that they both want the same thing of peace. St. Francis started the dialogue of life while living with the Muslims with the attitude of respect and humility. In fact, this encounter transformed both St. Francis and Sultan.
He further described the four reasons that St. Francis went to see Sultan and the Muslims because it was part and parcel of his peace movement, reverence to God, desire for martyrdom and universal fraternity. He stated that St. Francis of Assisi had an intuitive, fundamental openness that today urges us forward to risk bold initiatives, cooperating with other people of good will. He was determined to be an instrument of peace, dialogue and appreciation of one another.
Fr. Benedict said that no matter how complex or destructive the situation is, respect for the other person, at times your opponent, is essential and that is the starting point of dialogue. He emphasized the need to live the true Franciscan charism in order to play our role as instrument of peace.
He stated that our mission is to see image of God in all His creation as we should be open towards the people of other faiths.
There was a question/answer session after his talk where Fr. Clearance Hayat OFM Cap, Fr. Nicholas Hakim OFM Cap and Fr. Shahzad Khokher OFM Cap and Fr. Qasier Feroz OFM Cap responded the questions of the participants of the symposium. Later, the movie “The Sultan and the Saint” was shown which was appreciated by the participants.
A good number of Franciscan family members and SFO members participated in the symposium which was organized by Mariam Siddeeqa Custody Pakistan. Fr. Clearance Hayat OFM Cap expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Fr. Benedict Ayodi OFM Cap and all the participants.