The Australian premiere of a new film about the historic meeting between St Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt, Malik Al-Kamil, in the midst of the conflict of the Fifth Crusade, will take place on 29 July, 7-9 pm at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta South Campus.

Following the screening, there will be a formal response from a Muslim theologian, Assoc Professor Mehmet Ozalp, and a Franciscan Friar, Br Matthew Beckmann OFM. Audience discussion will continue over refreshments.

International journalist and Sydney presenter of TEN Network News, Hugh Riminton will be the MC for the Australian premiere.

This docudrama from Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) in the USA presents the historic meeting at Damietta in Egypt nearly 800 years ago when St Francis and his companion crossed no man’s land between the two opposing armies from the Christian camp to the Sultan’s camp and spent some days meeting and discussing with the Sultan and his court.

This remarkable encounter — and the commitment to peace of the two people involved — changed the relationship between Muslims and Christians for the better.

The Franciscan Action Network (FAN) is a partner with UPF in the making of the film. Patrick Carolan, FAN Executive Director said St Francis and Al-Kamil are a testament to what following faith means. “It’s very important that Christians and Muslims are in a relationship with each other, to learn from each other,” he said.

Featuring dramatic re-enactments and renowned scholarship, the film includes interviews with Michael Cusato (St Bonaventure University), Sr Kathy Warren (Sisters of St Francis), Suleiman Mourad (Smith College), Homayra Ziad, Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies, Paul Moses (author of The Saint and the Sultan), and others.

The screening is being co-hosted by Affinity Intercultural Foundation, Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay, Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, Diocese of Parramatta, Franciscan Provincial Office Australia, Islamic Sciences and Research Academy (ISRA), Uniting Church in Australia, and Western Sydney University.

Assoc Professor Mehmet Ozalp said The Sultan and the Saint is a captivating dramatisation of the encounter between St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Al-Kamil, grandson of Saladin.

“The film echoes an amazing display of humanity and a message that sincere faith in God can transcend conflict in a way that can grow one’s commitment to peace and love of God. We need to hear this message at a time when the world is dominated by tensions,” he said.

Rev Dr Patrick McInerney SSC, Coordinator of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, said the film’s message is very relevant to our times.

“In our present time of Islamophobia, suspicion, fear and hostility towards Islam and Muslims, this is a wonderful example of Christian-Muslim dialogue, of Christians and Muslims meeting face-to-face, of promoting peace,” he said.

Chair of the Diocese of Parramatta’s Interfaith Commission, Rev Walter Fogarty said The Sultan and the Saint is an inspirational film for our time.

“Recalling a historical encounter between two people who sought peace in the midst of war reminds us that today we, too, must have a vision of peace grounded in dialogue, to dare to speak when so many refuse to,” he said.

More information and a trailer for the film can be found at: www.sultanandthesaintfilm.com

Tickets are $10. Book at https://sultansaintsydney.eventbrite.com.au Bookings close on Monday 24 July.