The Story of Damietta
In May of 1219, St. Francis set off with Brother Iluminato and traveled to Egypt. Francis had tried unsuccessfully to spread the good news of Jesus to the Muslims twice in the past. This time he reached the city of Acre in late august, just before the final battle of the fifth Crusade, which ended in a bloody defeat for the Crusaders. After the battle, Francis and his companion set off into the territory occupied by Sultan Melek-el-Kamel and his troops. Francis and Illuminato were eventually received by the Sultan, where they conversed together about faith in God. Francis' approach to Islam was radically different from what the Sultan experienced with the crusaders: Francis didn't argue with or try to impose his faith on the Sultan and his court but simply shared his convictions about the Christian faith and his life. Moved by the respect and acceptance of Francis, the Sultan gave Francis and his brothers free passage throughout Muslim lands. Returning to Italy, Francis urged his brothers and public officals to have the bells rung during the day to call Christian people to prayer, a practice he had experienced with the Muslim call to prayer. Francis included a chapter in the Rule of the Lesser Brothers on misson to non-believers, whiche emphasized peaceful co-existence and the example of a Christian life as the foundation for every mission. St. Francis' meeting with the Sultan serves as a strong impetus and example for dialogue among peoples and religions today.