Francis of Assisi (l) and Mohammad Malik (r) meet, seeking peace in the midst of war. (Photo: a still taken from the movie trailer)
Francis of Assisi (l) and Sultan Malik Al-Kamel (r) in a still from the movie, sought peace in the midst of war.

The film ‘The Sultan and the Saint’, about the relationship at the height of the Crusades between Sultan Malik Al-Kamel, a Muslim ruler, and Francis of Assisi (later to become one of Christianity’s most famous saints), has had its first showing in Egypt where, under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, inter-religious tensions have increased.

‘The Sultan and the Saint’ is a 60-minute docu-drama about the historic dialogue and relationship between the two, who met each other north of Cairo during the Crusades in 1219, seeking peace in the midst of war.

Ezzat Ibrahim, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram Weekly, told Al-Monitor the film was relevant to today’s conflict as it “presents the history of the relationship between East and West”.

Al-Monitor describes how “the film shows Sultan Al-Kamel, the nephew of the great Muslim ruler Saladin, … sharing a warm relationship with the Copts. ‘God creates us to get to know each other, not to quarrel,’ says the sultan in one scene”.

In a nation facing inter-religious and sectarian strife fuelling terrorist attacks, it’s a timely message. Farida el Naqqash, a well-known Egyptian writer and journalist, told Al-Monitor the film called for interfaith dialogue but “also aims to fight extremism and sectarianism”. Rev. Antonio Adeeb, the secretary of the Franciscan Order in Egypt, said there was a need for “more films like this. It must be screened in universities and schools so that we can see religion as a factor that helps us get to know each other, not as dividing us.”