LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, Chapter 24
HOW ST FRANCIS CONVERTED TO THE FAITH THE SULTAN OF BABYLON
In this present period of history when there are elements of Islam at war with Christianity, it is important to remember that mutual tolerance and respect between adherents of these two faiths existed then and still exists in some quarters now. Each section of the Koran begins with the phrase, "In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate." This gives me the impression that at least some Moslems, in some places and times, had an imprssion of Allah that was similar to the impression of God held by Christians and Jews.
The Sultan in this Flowers story recognized fundamental and significant differences between the two faiths, but knew that if he professed his conversion, his people would kill him. Ideally, and usually, Chrisitanity is ruled with gentler hands. Both religions, and both the high handed and the low handed leadership styles, have found it difficult to transmit through the ages unchanged their respective fundamental faith.
The topic that cries out for constructive answers in these troubled times is, how best to have cordial relations of mutual respect and tolerance between opposing faiths that now and in times past have had habitually violent elements. Unfortunately, this is a highly emotionally charged collection of related issues, and I'm sure there are strong and conflicting opinions about various historic confrontations between faiths, and between sects and denomintions and such within faiths. But evangelization and even peaceful international relations will succeed or fail depending on how well we relate with people of other faiths.
I think the most important thing we can learn from Brother Francis' example is precicely that, his example. The Sultan wasn't impressed with Brother Francis' presentation of his ideas, he was impressed with how Brother Francis lived his life. We can say what we want, and it can be as correct or not a presentation of the facts, but how we live shows what we really believe. And our actions make a stronger impression than our words.