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St. Francis and the Sultan

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This paper offers a structuralist reading of the various traditions of the meeting of St. Francis of Assisi with Sultan Malik al-Kamil during the Fifth Crusade in 1219. Although there exist various accounts of the "Francis legend," the author argues that their cumulative purpose was to show that the unique character of Francis evoked a positive response from the sultan that made Muslims potential objects of peaceful conversion rather than hopeless infidels to be violently eradicated. While Francis can never be called the "patron saint of religious pluralism," the story of his encounter with the sultan can certainly be an example of how twenty-first century Christians can respond to Muslims as neighbors in our culturally diverse world. "Although Francis probably believed with his contemporaries that Muslims were cunning and fierce ... , his experiences at Damietta direct Christians to consider the log in their own eyes before poking at the speck in another's.

Affiliations: 1: Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA


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