Peace between India and Pakistan “is necessary and it is the only viable way because both countries cannot afford a war, while peace is the only way to prosper and make progress”. As Fides News Agency reported March 7, 2019, this is what Christian and Muslim religious leaders, who gathered in Lahore in recent days, for a meeting promoted by the Province of the Capuchin friars in Pakistan said, focusing on the theme “The encounter of Saint Francis with the Sultan and interreligious dialogue today”.
Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, president of the episcopal commission for ecumenism and interreligious dialogue took part together with the great Imam of the royal mosque in Lahore, Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad. Friar Benedict Ayoti OFM Cap, Secretary of the Commission “Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation” of the General Curia of the Capuchin Friars was also present.
Fr. Ayoti recalled that the year 2019 marks the 800th anniversary of the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt, Melek Al-Kamil, who met in the middle of the conflict in the 13th century, during the fifth crusade and “established a dialogue of life, for peace”. “Both men of good will – he said – understood that they both want the same thing: peace. They welcomed each other with respect and humility, which fostered a dialogue of peace and reconciliation”.
Great Imam Abdul Khabir Azad expressed his desire for peace and assured: “support and cooperation to continue the dialogue for peace and build harmony in Pakistan”. Archbishop Shaw agreed on the urgency of “promoting the culture of acceptance and tolerance among believers in the nation”, confirming “mutual cooperation and respect, in order to cultivate the seed of peace in society and generate citizen ambassadors of peace”.
At the end of the meeting, Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission and Provincial of Capuchins in Pakistan, told Fides: “We all need to continue what St. Francis and the Sultan began 800 years ago”. In memory of the historic meeting, the leaders planted an olive tree in the complex of St. Mary’s Church, which hosted the meeting.