Brazil’s Franciscan Family Marks the 8th Centenary of St. Francis and the Sultan

On September 28th, 2019, a warm fraternal meeting took place at Mosque of Mercy Sobem, Sao Paolo, Brazil, marking the 8th centenary of the encounter between St. Francis and Sultan Al-Malik Al-Kamil. The encounter, organized by the Franciscan Family of Brazil (CFFB), the Federation of Muslim Associations of Brazil (FAMBRAS), the National Islamic Union (UNI) and the Muslim Beneficial Society of Santo Amaro (SOBEM), was an opportunity for dialogue and friendship.

To begin, Sheikh Mohamad Al Bukai lead a prayer service after which the participants heard presentations in the Muhammad Ali Hall.

Sr. Cleusa Aparecida Neves, president of Brazil’s Franciscan Family, stressed that dialogue needs to be fostered. She denounced the authoritarianism of certain politicians who spread intolerance and hate speech, and she encouraged the participants to nurture dialogue through attitudes that are open to a culture of encounter that will break down the walls of violence and hatred that are so contrary to the love of God and human dignity.

The president of the OFM Brazilian Conference Br. Cesar Külkamp, who is also Minister Provincial in Sao Paulo, recalled Mgr Hélder Câmara’s words: “Whatever your life situation, certainly think of you and yours, but do not become closed in on the narrow circle of your little family and its religious expression. Adopt the human family once and for all.” Br. Cesar spoke of the goal of the Franciscan Family to be a fraternal presence for all of humanity, working for the integrity of Creation.

Sheikh Mohamad Al Bukai, director of the National Islamic Union, declared that in war everyone is a loser — victory is when we manage to prevent conflict. He pointed to the example of the Prophet who conquered Mecca without shedding blood and then spoke of the example of St. Francis, “a man of God, who went alone carrying the banner of peace with great faith and courage. An outcome of that courage is that here, 800 years later, on the other side of the world, we commemorate a great action that will remain eternally.”

The president of FAMBRAS, Mohamed Hussein El Zoghbi, lamented the many cases of religious intolerance in Brazil and in the world. This situation can be changed through collaboration  among religions, the mobilization of society, and the firm application of justice. As a sign of friendship and gratitude, he gave Sr. Cleusa and Br. César a replica of the ivory horn that the Sultan gave to St. Francis. His wish is that religions seek the path of union and collaboration.

Finally, the representatives planted a Tabebuia tree and dedicated a commemorative plaque recalling an historic evening.