As Franciscans, we realize that Inter-Faith Dialogue (IFD) is an important aspect of our life and mission in our constantly-changing societies of diverse cultures and faiths. St. Francis of Assisi had an intuitive, fundamental openness that today urges us forward to risk bold initiatives, cooperating with other people of good will. In an age when hearts and minds were bent on destroying one another, Francis was determined to be an instrument of peace, of dialogue, of harmony and of appreciation for one another, in the name of God. As Dr. Hans Kung wrote in 2005, “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.” These words accurately capture the importance and the mindset required for Inter-Faith Dialogue: an attitude that is willing to step away from the comfort and safety of what is familiar into an unexplored world of possibility for the sake of peace. St. Francis’ approach to peacemaking was of openness to learning from the virtues and practices of other religious traditions while remaining firmly rooted in one’s own. His dialogue with the Sultan in Damietta 800 years ago fits the model of “interfaith relations” since he came openly as a person of faith and left behind the world of politics and diplomacy. The challenge for us today as Franciscan brothers and sisters is to find ways in which Francis’ model can be transformed into a broadly-based inter-religious dialogue among religious traditions or civilizations relevant to our situation today.
Franciscans serve all over the world, including in Muslim majority countries, such as Indonesia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Malaysia. In our mission of evangelization and social ministry, we encounter and relate with our brothers and sisters from other faith traditions. As such we see the need to inform, Integrate and inspire our members to learn and advocate for the values of peace, justice, dialogue, non-violence, tolerance, and reconciliation for peaceful and harmonious co-existence.