“Franciscans Among People of Diverse Faiths”: International Conference on Inter-Religious Dialogue (IRD) for Peaceful Coexistence in Multicultural Societies

On October 18-21, 2017, an International Conference on Inter-Religious Dialogue (IRD) for Peaceful Coexistence in Intercultural Societies was held at the Couvent Notre Dame du Puits, Bkenneya, Beirut, Lebanon. More than fifty participants attended the 4 days conference with the theme “Franciscans Among People of Other Faiths”. Majority of the participants were Capuchin friars from over 20 countries. They were joined by other Franciscans including OFM Conventuals, OFM, FMM sisters, and Secular Franciscans (OFS). The presence of Muslim participants from Kenya (representing the Damietta Peace Initiative) and Lebanon graced the conference.

Group photo 1


The conference began with the Holy Mass celebrated by  Fr. Tanios, the Custos of Lebanon. In his homily, he welcomed all participants and reiterated the value and significance of IRD  in our witness of God’s love to all people both Christians and non-Christians for peaceful coexistence.

The conference was divided into three interlocked sessions. The first part contextualized the involvement of friars in IRD. As such participants presented reports from their various countries including from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey,  United Arab Emirates,  and United States of America. This helped to enlighten participants on the work being done to promote IRD in different parts of the world. Fr. Silvestro Bajan OFMConv, General Delegate for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Order of the Friars Minor Conventuals in Assisi, presented on IRD- Paradigms of Theological Interpretations. His lecture gave a  theological basis for IRD in the Church. Another enlightening perspective was given by Sheikh Ahmad Taleb who spoke on the Muslim perspective of IRD. This was complemented by Fr. Fadi Daou’s reflection on IRD and Evangelization. The first part was nicely concluded by  Fr. Varghese Manimala OFMCap who engaged participants on the topic- IRD in a post-secular world.

The second part of the conference was oriented into addressing contemporary issues on IRD. In this case, Dr. Paschal Robert OFM guided the participants to reflect on IRD and peacebuilding, religious fundamentalism and fanatism. The lecture was of much interest to the participants.  Sr. Lilian Curaming FMM,  highly experienced in IRD, reminded participants of their Franciscans roots in IRD, her presentation was titled “Franciscans Dialogue among Muslims and people of other faiths”. At the end of the second sessionDr. Mohamed El-Sammak greatly inspired participants on the topic understanding Islam and relating with Muslims. His extensive knowledge of both Islam and Christianity was greatly appreciated and enlightened participants on theology and practices of both faiths.

Despite lectures, there were interesting roundtable discussions, small group sharing, visits to Mosques, Churches, shrines and other places of interest in Lebanon. All these were meant to inform, integrate and inspire participants to be fully immersed in the seminar training.

The final part of the conference helped participants to plan for future engagement in the ministry of IRD in the order and beyond.  In this case, drawing from knowledge and experience acquired during the seminar, participants were able to draw up conclusions and make proposals and recommendations for the future. With the help of the reduction committee of six people, an IRD peace statement was released by the participants. In addition, suggestions were put forth for the creation of guidelines on IRD for Capuchin friars around the world.  The conference finished with the symbolic act of the signing of IRD peace statement and presentation of certificates of attendance to the participants.  The Bishop of Beirut, a Muslim representative, and Br. Pistorius OFMCap (who represented the Minister General OFMCap), witnessed this process of commitment by the participants. The conference was brought a conclusion by the celebration of Holy Mass presided over by most reverend Cèsar Essayan OFMConv, vicar apostolic of Beirut.

Joel De Jesus


Giving certificates, Silvestro

Giving of certificates


signing of the peace statment

Singing of the IRD peace statement

final mass

Final Mass

Final pic

Final Picture



Alle radici del nostro carisma: il dialogo

group with orthodox priest

In memoria dello storico incontro tra Francesco  e il sultano Malik al Kamil 45 persone si sono riuniti in Libano per il primo incontro interfrancescano organizzato dai Cappuccini. In modo particolare gli artefici, oltre all’ufficio di Giustizia, Pace e Integrità del Creato diretto da fr. Benedict Avoid, sono stati i frati libanesi. La Curia Generale e altri benefattori hanno collaborato alla buona riuscita dell’evento  L’incontro  si è svolto vicino a Beirut nella casa di spiritualità di Notre Dame de Puits un centro fondato dal nostro beato cappuccino Jacques Haddad (il beato Abuna Yakob).  Oltre ai frati provenienti da 20 paesi tra i presenti erano annoverati quattro sorelle FMM, fr . Robert Pachal  OFM della provincia di  Pakistan,  fr. Silvestro Bejan, incaricato OFMConv per il dialogo interreligioso ed ecumenico e due sorelle OFS. La presenza di una donna musulmana proveniente da Kenia e collaboratrice del progetto Damietta completava il  numero dei partecipanti fissi a cui si aggiungevano ogni giorno ospiti illustri e graditi, come il vescovo di Beirut, mons. Césaire Essayan, i postnovizi, i postulanti e i frati del Libano, insieme a fratelli e sorelle della fraternità OFS  locale ed alcuni esponenti del mondo musulmano. Si è trattato prima di tutto di una esperienza di preghiera e di fraternità in cui si è creato il clima per parlare di dialogo. I frati hanno condiviso la loro esperienza nelle rispettive circoscrizioni e insieme si è riflettuto su una prassi comune del dialogo. In questo lavoro sono stati di aiuto le riflessioni di fr. Varghes Manimala, OFMCap, di fr. Robert Pachal OFM,  di fr. Silvestro  Beja OFM, di don Fadi Daou, di sr. Lilian Curaming  FFM, del Mufti Ahman Taleb e del dottor Mohamed Al-Sammak, esponenti del mondo musulmano. Possiamo vedere come diversi interventi venissero dall’interno dell’assemblea. Questo mostra come il nostro mondo fratesco abbia qualcosa da dire sul dialogo, proprio perché, come abbiamo riscoperto insieme, esso fa parte del nostro DNA francescano. Al termine dell’incontro tutti i partecipanti hanno firmato una dichiarazione che verrà pubblicata a breve e si sono impegnati, davanti al vescovo di Beirut, a un rappresentante musulmano e a fr. Pictorius (che rappresentava il ministro generale) a proseguire l’impegno del dialogo interreligioso nelle proprie circoscrizioni nella sequela di Cristo, nella letizia e nella fraternità francescana.

Luca Minuto

About Ufficio di GPIC OFM Cap.

The office for justice, peace and integrity of creation JPIC of the Capuchin order serves the whole order to promote work for the poor and marginalized and for actions saving our planet. Our principal mission for this sexennium is to Inform, Integrate and Inspire our friars and all people of good will towards working for JPIC.
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