//Seek Fellowship, not Confrontation

Seek Fellowship, not Confrontation

The 7th Victor Courtois Memorial Lecture, organized by the Islamic Studies Association in Delhi, was held at the Millennium Hall of St. Xavier’s School, Delhi on 23 February 2024. The lecture titled ‘From Morocco to the Mughal Empire: Franciscan Encounters with Muslims and their Significance for Interreligious Dialogue Today’ was delivered by Professor Michael Calabria OFM.

Victor Courtois, SJ was a Belgian Jesuit who spent much of his life in India. He played a pivotal role in transforming the Christian-Muslim relationship in India by refraining from the polemics and debates of the past, and focusing on reaching out to Muslims, loving and respecting them along with their religious beliefs. By doing so, he gained a deep knowledge of the intellectual and spiritual richness of Indian Muslims and established a new beginning in relating to them.

Calabria, in his presentation, highlighted St Francis of Assisi’s beautiful model of approaching Muslims. During the 5th Crusade, while the Crusaders expressed disdain towards Muslims, St Francis chose a different path and reached out to the Sultan in Egypt. To his surprise, the Sultan received him with open arms and showed him great hospitality. This encounter had a profound impact on St Francis and his vision for his friars’ ministry among Muslims. He later wrote that the Friars who go among Muslims could say and do things that would please God, emphasizing the importance of humility and sharing.

This approach reminds us of St John Paul II’s words spoken during the gathering to pray for peace in Assisi. The teachings of Vatican Council II also encourage the Church to regard Muslims with esteem and work with them to promote social justice, moral welfare, peace, and freedom for the benefit of all.

The speaker highlighted the importance of adhering to the vision of St Francis. He also mentioned that some Friars deviated from this vision and sought confrontation with Muslims by abusing their faith convictions, hoping to achieve martyrdom. The lecture emphasized the need for Christians to follow in the footsteps of St Francis and open themselves to transformation, walking alongside Muslims and doing what would please God.

– Joseph V. Edwin, SJ (DEL)