|Benozzo Gozzoli, 1452|
My posting on September 10 was about St. Francis’ peace prayer. One Franciscan scholar suggests that that well-known prayer was prayed aloud before Malik al-Kamil, the Muslim sultan of Egypt. The Saint and the Sultan (2009) is a fascinating book of nearly 300 pages written by Paul Moses, a journalism professor at Brooklyn College. It is mainly about that historic encounter of Francis of Assisi with Sultan al-Kamil in 1219.
Professor Moses explains that he first became interested in the story of Francis and the sultan shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. In the Introduction he writes, “The story of Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al-Kamil says there is a better way than resentment, suspicion, and warfare. It opens the door to respect, trust, and peace” (p. 11).
I can understand the resentment that so many Americans have felt toward the 9·11 terrorists, who were radical Muslims, for killing so many people and for wreaking such havoc on U.S. soil. I can also understand how many Americans are also suspicious of Muslims because of those tragic attacks on the Pentagon and especially on the Twin Towers in Manhattan. I have less sympathy for those who think that prolonged warfare in Afghanistan is the proper response to that act of radical terrorists.
In spite of all the problems of the past nine years and the turmoil of the present, I fully agree with Professor Moses that we would do well to learn about respect, trust, and peace and to seek to put those attitudes into practice.
I lived in Japan from 1966 to 2004, going there just twenty-one years after the end of World War II. At that time many Americans still harbored much resentment toward and suspicion of the Japanese people. “Remember Pearl Harbor!” was frequently heard in this country.
But getting to know some Japanese people personally increased my respect for and trust of the people of Japan in general. Very seldom did we meet anyone who bore ill will toward us because of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I found that most Japanese people were just as, or maybe even more, interested in world peace as I was.
This month one of my friends on Facebook made several references to 12/7/41 in reference to 9/11/01. His point seemed to be that this nation should take decisive action against Islam now as it did against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Both of those terrible events were great tragedies. But whole nations, or religions, should not be demonized because of the misdeeds of a radical minority within that nation or religion.
Nearly eight hundred years ago St. Francis sought to replace resentment, suspicion, and warfare with respect and trust for the sake of peace. That remains a powerful example for us all to this day.