One of the most profound encounters in the life of St. Francis of Assisi was his meeting with Sultan Malik al-Kamil at Damietta, Egypt in the midst of the Fifth Crusade in 1219. At a time when Christians and Muslims, often as motivated by earthly ambitions as godly ones, were engaged in deadly conflict, Francis and al-Kamil chose the way of conversation. While each made no secret of his desire to convert the other, they did so in an atmosphere of mutual respect. While the poverello remained a Christian and the sultan stayed a Muslim, their meeting led to a conversion of a different kind and inspired a model of life that inspires people even today.
Based in South Africa, the Damietta Peace Initiative (DPI) was founded by Capuchin + Fr. Donal O’Mahony, who was inspired by St. Francis’ encounter with Malik al-Kamil. DPI’s mission is to build throughout the African continent communities of nonviolence, reconciliation and respect for creation. This is achieved through the training and deployment of Pan-African Conciliation Teams (PACTs) in areas where there are religious, tribal, socio-economic and other conflicts. These teams are composed of men and women from those very communities of concern, recognizing that if peace is to reign in our streets it must first reign in our hearts. Please visit the DPI website at http://www.damiettapeace.org.za/ to find more information.