The Capuchin friars of the Custody of Mariam Siddeeqa of Pakistan launched the year long celebrations and activities to mark the 800th anniversary of the encounter between Saint Francis of Assisi and the Sultan in Damietta, Egypt in 12.19. The friars under the leadership of their Custos Fr. Francis Nadeem who is also the president of the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism (NCIDE) organized several events to mark the anniversary. The events were graced by the visit and presence of Br. Benedict Ayodi, the secretary for the International Commission of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) from the General Capuchin Curia in Rome.
One major event was the Peace Cards Exhibitions done by five Capuchin Schools in Lahore. The Staff and Student from the Capuchin schools including Franciscan Boys High School, Franciscan Girls High School and St. Mary’s High School prepared, and decorated their schools with hundreds of beautiful artwork done by the students. The purpose of the exhibition was to promote peace, harmony, acceptance, tolerance and solidarity through art work. In his speech to the students, Br. Benedict thanked them for their magnificent work and encouraged them to be ambassadors of peace in their little ways.
Another event was the Youth conference at Lahore University.
Br. Benedict gave a talk on “the encounter between St. Francis and the Sultan and the importance of Interfaith Dialogue Today”. More than 500 students and faculty members attended the conference that was meant to encourage them to engage in interfaith dialogue and the promotion of peace, harmony and solidarity in the society through education and research. The Capuchin delegation also visited another leading university Minhaj ul Quran university of Lahore where they held consultations with the administration and faculty members.
In the same spirit of promoting interfaith dialogue, a seminar for teachers was organized at the St. Mary’s Hall Gulberg, Lahore where almost 200 teachers from different schools participated. Br. Benedict spoke on “the role of teachers to promote peace and religious harmony in the light of encounter between St. Francis and Sultan”. He said that we are challenged to educate and form our children into being responsible, just and peaceful citizens and future leaders. The Teachers have a vital responsibility in doing this. This transformation of consciousness is possible through an education that seeks peace and justice, and an important pathway toward this kind of education is one that supports interfaith dialogue and cooperation
A symposium for the Franciscan families was also held to discuss the contribution and role of the Franciscans in promoting interfaith dialogue and harmony amid challenging mission in Pakistan where they are a minority. “No matter how complex or destructive the situation is, respect for the other person, at times your opponent, is essential and that is the starting point of dialogue” Said Br. Benedict adding that Franciscans have the role of bearing witness and being instruments of peace in the society. .
To conclude the week’s long events, the Capuchin friars held an “All Pakistan Interreligious Leaders Conference” at the St. Mary’s school in Lahore under the topic of “Encounter of St. Francis and Sultan and Interreligious Dialogue Today”. Major religious leaders were present at the meeting including His Grace Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, the Chairman of National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism was the chief guest. The grand Imam of Badshahi Mosque Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap executive secretary NCIDE and Mufti Ashiq Hussian were the honorable guests.
The grand Imam of Badshahi Mosque Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad expressed his desire for peace and assured his support and cooperation to continue the dialogue for peace and harmon in Pakistan.
In his address, Br. Benedict said that the year 2019 marks 800 years of the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt, Al-Kamil Muhammad Al-Ayyubi. They met in the midst of the conflict in the 13th century, particularly the 5th Crusade and had dialogue of life for peace. Both men of goodwill exchanged the greetings of peace when they met and realized that both want the same thing of peace. They accepted, respected each other with humility which led them towards the dialogue of peace and reconciliation. He also mentioned about the Holy Father Pope Francis visit to the United Arab Emanates which proved revival of peace, friendship and dialogue with the two big religions of the world; Christianity and Islam. He encouraged the leaders to follow the example of St. Francis and the Sultan in order to be instruments of peace in the Pakistan society and around the world. To mark this historical day, an olive tree was planted in the compound to express the need of peace in our surrounding.
A mid tension and war, we took a delegation of Capuchin friars in Pakistan together with a few other Christians to the Gandha Singh- Border between India and Pakistan. The purpose of this delegation was to pray and send a message of peace, reconciliation , friendship, brotherhood and mutual acceptance to the nations of India and Pakistan. The delegation included Fr. Francis Nadeem the Custos of Pakistan and Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue, and Br. Benedict Ayodi, the director of the international office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) for the Friars Minor Capuchin. Br. Benedict is currently visiting Pakistan to participate in the 800th anniversary celebrations of the encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan and to promote interfaith dialogue. He is also following up on Capuchin social projects in the areas of conflict management, human rights, poverty alleviation, and peace building.
During the visit to the border, the delegation lit candles and prayed together for peace between the two conflicting countries. We distributed to the people at the border the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi- ‘Lord make me an instrument of your peace’ and invited them to pray with us for peace and harmony between the India and Pakistan. While this was a small gesture of trying to advocate for peace, we believe more needs to be done to bring peace between the two countries. At this critical moment of military escalation, we appeal to all political leaders of the two countries for patience, wisdom and a peaceful solution to the long standing issue of Kashmir. May they choose the path of diplomacy and negotiations and not that of arms and war.
This year 2019, marks 800 years since the encounter between our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan Al-Malik al-Kamil during the Fifth crusade at Damietta in Egypt. In 1219, Pope Honorius III sent Cardinal Pelagius of Albano to lead the Fifth Crusade. Al-Malik al-Kamil, attempted to negotiate peace, seeking to trade Damietta (a port city on the River Nile in northern Egypt) for Jerusalem, but Pelagius refused. During September 1219, Francis of Assisi arrived in the Crusader camp and sought permission to cross the battle lines to meet the Sultan at Damietta. In Francis’ revolutionary request, it is clear how different his convictions were to those who led the Fifth Crusade.
Upon meeting the Sultan, Francis surely greeted him with the Italian words: “Pace e bene!” (“Peace and all good”), while the Sultan may well have responded with the Islamic greeting: “Assalamu alaykum!” (“Peace be upon you!”). Both Men realized that they were for peace and wanted a peaceful end to the 5th crusade. The Sultan listened to Francis and offered him gifts, although the only one he accepted was a horn that he imagined could call friars to prayer.
We are told that “The Sultan, not only dismissed Francis in peace, with wonder and admiration for the man’s unusual qualities, but received him fully into his favor, gave him a safe-conduct by which he might go and come, with full permission to preach to his subjects, and an entreaty that he would frequently return to visit him.”
This incident is a model for solving conflicts in non-violent ways and for improving understanding between different peoples. In contemporary times the example of the Saint and the Sultan needs to be followed by reaching out in respectful dialogue with people of religions and cultures different to our own.
Following this legacy and example of St. Francis, the Capuchin friars in Africa started the Damietta Peace Initiative. This is a grassroots, pro-active, interfaith peace project centred upon non-violence, reconciliation and care for creation throughout Africa. The project promotes community-based small groups called Pan African Conciliation Teams or (PACTs). These groups build good relationships among people of diverse faiths, ethnicity, status, and Ideology. A distinct aspect of the DPI is promoting Interreligious dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
As we celebrate this anniversary we encourage all our Capuchin friars, the Franciscan family, our faithful and all people of good will, with the words of Fr. Mike Perry the Minister General of the Friars Minor, OFM, “To celebrate this anniversary as a moment when the light of the Gospel can open one’s heart to see the imago Dei in a person one regards with fear and distrust, or even worse, in a person one has been urged to hate”.
The challenge for us today as friars is to find ways in which Francis’ model can be transformed into a broadly based inter-religious dialogue between religious traditions or civilizations relevant to our situation today
Br. Benedict Ayodi OFMCap,
Lahore (Jan. 12, 2019) It was a historical moment to see a Franciscan Archbishop and the Custos of Capuchin Friars to inaugurate the ceremony in commemoration of the meeting of St. Francis with the Sultan of Egypt, AL-Kamil in the year 1219. This ceremony was organized by the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue & Ecumenism (Catholic Bishops’ conference Pakistan) and the Capuchin Friars in Pakistan. His grace Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw OFM (Chairman NCIDE) was the chief guest of this inaugural ceremony where as Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, (Executive secretary NCIDE) was the organizer of this event. A big number of Franciscan Brothers and sisters and eminent Muslim scholars from Sialkot, Lahore, Gujranwala and Islamabad were present to mark the occasion.
The purpose of the celebration was to renew the memories of the historic event of the meeting of these two great leaders who stood for peace and tolerance amidst the atmosphere of war and conflict during the crusades. They set an example of Interfaith Dialogue and mutual understanding.
In the beginning of the ceremony the portrait of the historical encounter of St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan Al-Kamil was unveiled by the Christian and Muslim leaders, while balloons and pigeons were set free in the air with the hope that they will spread the message of peace in all the countries, especially in the areas where religious and political conflicts are separating people and causing harm to life.
The organizers of the programme, Qaiser Feroz OFM Cap and Fr. Faisal Francis OFM Cap welcomed all the guests whereas Fr. Shahzad Khokher OFM Cap presented the background and the impact of this historical meeting.
In his message, His grace Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw OFM congratulated all the participants and encouraged them to be ambassadors of peace as the example shown by these great leaders. He admired the passion of St. Francis who went to Sultan amidst the wars just with a white flag in his hands and told him that wars can occupy and win only a piece of land and territory Not the hearts of people.
Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap while expressing his views admired this historical moment. This event has inspired all of us to live in peace, harmony, tolerance and solidarity. He further announced that this year will be celebrated all across Pakistan; Seminars for Children, youth, College, Madrisa and University students will be organized. Rev. Francis Nadeem expressed his commitment that during this year he would try hard to reach out to that 30 % of hard-line Muslim clerics who hate Christians; like St. Francis, without any fear he would like to go out, with the help of his Muslim friends who has always been at his side to promote peace and harmony in Pakistan, and meet them to convince them to believe in peace and make peace possible for all humanity.
Maulana Muhammad Asim Makhdoom, a renowned Muslim scholar and leader said that we shall promote the mission of St. Francis and Sultan. He promised that as St. Francis went to Sultan keeping aside all the fatal consequences, we would also approach all the weapons’ dealers and to those who spread hate and prejudice among the religions. He urged all the participants and leaders to work hard during the year 2019, to convince 800 more people to join this movement of interfaith dialogue, peace and social harmony as we celebrate 800 years of the historical encounter. The ceremony ended with the Peace prayer recited by Fr. Clarence Hayat OFM Cap.
The following speakers were present in this inaugural ceremony: Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw OFM, Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, Moulana Muhammad ASIM Makhdoom, Allama Sajad Husaan Naqvi, Allama Muhamad Sulman Shaker,Mufti Ashiq Hussain, Dr. Badar Munir, Moulana Abdul Sattar Niazi, Qari Ahmad Shakeel Saddiqui, Allama Asghar Arif Chishti, Moulana Muhammad Asghar Arif Chishti, Sahibzada Mustafa Chishti, hafiz Muhammad Nouman, Sahbzada pervaiz akbar, Pir S.A. Jaffery, Pervaiz Akbar Saqi, Qari Khalid Mahmood, Qari Anam ul Raheem, Alhaj Pir Sayyed Wali Allah Shah, Sohail Ahmad Raza, Qari Muhammad Yaqoob Raheemi, Fr. John Jospeh, Fr. Henery Paul, Fr. Qaiser Feroz, Fr. Francis Sabir, Fr. Ashfaq Anthony, Fr. Fiaz Rafiq, Fr. Aqeel Ashiq, Fr Sunil Irfan , Fr. Adnan Kashif, Fr. Clarence Hayat, Fr. Masam Illays, Fr. Atif Alphonas, Fr. Shahzad Khokher, Fr. Emmanuel Mushtaq, Fr. Faisal Francis, Fr. Sunil Irfan, Fr. Baber Shahzad and Br. Ayub Thomas.
Fr. Francis Nadeem OFMCap, Pakistan
As policymakers face the magnitude of the 1.5-degree challenge, new technologies and approaches for capping temperature increases—referred to as climate engineering or geoengineering—are under growing discussion.
These approaches and technologies are in the early stages of development, carry significant uncertainty in terms of their effectiveness, are unproven at scale, and hold the potential for large-scale unintended consequences. Each technology in the geoengineering toolbox raises weighty ethical questions.
To equip religious groups to understand and advocate on these issues consistent with our moral values, GreenFaith has released a new report, Playing God? Multi-Faith Responses to the Prospect of Climate Change.”
The report is designed to help readers to understand the basics of geoengineering, recommendations for governance of the field, and religious and spiritual perspectives on the ethics of climate intervention.
Statement by the Heads of UN agencies, UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women and UNFPA, calling for solidarity with survivors and survivor advocates and women’s human rights defenders who are working to prevent and end violence against women and girls.
To commemorate this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Secretary-General’s UNiTE Campaign is calling upon us to stand in solidarity with survivors and survivor advocates and women’s human rights defenders who are working to prevent and end violence against women and girls. Our duty is not only to stand in solidarity with them but also to intensify our efforts to find solutions and measures to stop this preventable global scourge with a detrimental impact on women’s and girls’ lives and health.
The last year has been extraordinary in terms of the awareness that has been raised on the extent and magnitude of the different forms of violence inflicted on women and girls. The #MeToo campaign—one of the most viral and powerful social movements of recent times—has brought this issue into the spotlight. This awareness has been further reinforced by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 to two remarkable activists, Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, who work on ending violence against women in conflict situations.
More than a third of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Furthermore, research indicates that the cost of violence against women could amount annually to around 2 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). This is equivalent to 1.5 trillion dollars.
Beyond raising awareness, governments, the private sector, the artistic community, civil society organizations, academia and engaged citizens are again looking into new ways to urgently address this global scourge.
For more than 20 years, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (managed by UN Women) has been investing in national and local initiatives that translate policy promises into concrete benefits for women and girls, and contribute to the prevention of violence in the long run.
As part of the Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls, a global, multi-year partnership between the United Nations and the European Union, we are working with different partners to increase the scale and level of ambition of our interventions. We understand that reducing and preventing violence against women is transformational: it improves the heath of women and children, reduces risks of acquiring HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), improves economic productivity and educational attainment, and reduces the risks of mental illness and substance abuse, among other benefits.
Through the Spotlight Initiative, our agencies are mobilizing an array of stakeholders to address both the root causes of violence as well as its most immediate consequences. In line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the initiative fully integrates the principle of leaving no one behind. Spotlight will also build on existing good practices and evidence-based programming, as well as incorporate new solutions for accelerated results.
The UN family is working tirelessly with our partners to strengthen legal frameworks and institutions, to improve services for survivors, and to address the root causes of violence by challenging social norms and behaviours and tackling the wider gender inequalities.
Ending violence against women and girls is not a short-term endeavor. It requires coordinated and sustained efforts from all of us. Showing that these efforts yield results is the best tribute to survivors and the survivor advocates and women’s human rights defenders that we are celebrating today.