Religions and Spirituality

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SBU to host Feb. 1 screening of new docudrama about St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY—St. Bonaventure University will host a Feb. 1 screening of a new film about Saint Francis and the Sultan of Egypt that explores the spiritual exchange between these two men of faith amid a 13th century battlefield of horror.

“The Sultan and the Saint,” a docudrama about Muslim-Christian relations, features historical content about their meeting provided by several experts affiliated with St. Bonaventure.

The public is invited to the Feb. 1 screening in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on campus. The event begins with a reception in the Quick Center Atrium from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by the showing of the film in the Rigas Theater and a question-and-answer session. The program is expected to conclude at 8:30 p.m. There is no charge to attend.

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The screening is sponsored by St. Bonaventure’s Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and the Franciscan Action Network.

In the year 1219, during the height of the bloody Christian-Muslim conflict known as the Crusades, Saint Francis of Assisi risked his life by walking across enemy lines to meet the Sultan of Egypt, the Muslim ruler Al-Malik al-Kamil. This remarkable encounter, and the commitment to peace of the two men behind it, presented an alternative to the persistent call for war.

Told with cinematic-style re-enactments and interviews with renowned historians, art experts, religious thinkers, and brain scientists, the film centers on these two men who had an improbable meeting during a terrible period of religious conflict between their faiths, and discovered a way of finding peace between them.

Among those who shared their expertise on Franciscans and Islam for the film were the Rev. Michael Calabria, OFM, director of St. Bonaventure’s Center for Arab and Islamic Studies; the Rev. Michael Cusato, OFM, distinguished professor of Franciscan studies at the university, and Sister Kathy Warren, OSF, a 2002 Franciscan studies graduate. In addition, St. Bonaventure alumnus Patrick Opitz, ’01, an IMDb-credited actor, had a small role as an extra in the film.

“I’m very happy to have been part of this film. This encounter that occurred nearly 800 years ago continues to have tremendous relevance in the contemporary world,” said Calabria, who holds a doctorate in Islamic studies. “I was genuinely touched and inspired by the film and believe that many others will be as well.”

“Saint Francis was a builder of bridges, badly needed at a time of religious violence. His commitment to a respectful dialogue with people of different faiths, and the ability to see others as people first, not enemies, is an inspiration to my own commitment to interfaith dialogue,” Opitz noted.

Cusato, one of the leading historians of medieval Franciscan history working in the field today, is former director of St. Bonaventure’s Franciscan Institute and dean of the School of Franciscan Studies. In addition to a doctorate in Medieval Church History, he holds a master’s degree in Franciscan studies from SBU and has authored numerous publications on the Franciscan movement and on Francis’ meeting with the Sultan.

Warren is a member of Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester, Minnesota, and a specialist in interreligious dialogue. She is the author of “Daring to Cross the Threshold: Francis of Assisi Encounters Sultan Malek-al-Kamil” and is co-producer of the two-part DVD “In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: A Model for Peacemaking,” in which Cusato and Calabria also appear.

More information about the film is available at

The film was produced by Unity Productions Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is to create peace through the media.


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