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FRANCIS OF ASSISI – The essence of Christianity, no other religion is like it

….A tense silence fell over the place; then the Sultan asked, “Can there be a truer religion
than Islam’s utter submission to the will of Allah?” “Surrender to God’s will,” answered
Francis, “is of the very essence of Christianity. My Lord, do not feel hurt if I dare say that
in the faith of Islam one is at a loss to discover the sublimity of the Sermon on the Mount.
Listen! “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth! Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God!”
“My master,” exploded Pasha Ismael, This monk would bring us the gift of true
faith!....He speaks of meekness!....Bah! Look at the corpses heaped about Damietta’s
walls by his fellow believers! See how these arrogant monopolizers of God’s grace revel
in cruelty and bloodshed! Smell the greed reeking from their godless quarrels over the
partitioning of the booty! Does all that abomination, may I ask, suggest a holier religion
than ours?” Shouts of “No! By Allah, no!” mingled with the flicker of hatred and the
rattle of scimitars.
Francis guessed what had been said, though he could not understand the language.
“Brother,” he answered, his kindly eyes on the Pasha, “it pains me to have to admit that
many people who wear the cross, alas, are bent upon crucifying their Saviour again. May
the Eternal Goodness have pity on them!”

“I am deeply impressed by your earnestness, Francis,” said Al-Gazhali. Then he added,

“The world’s main religions are separate but equally sacred domains of the one kingdom
of the Spirit. The lamps which burn in the Buddhist cave-temple and the Moslem mosque
are fed by the same oil as the lamps lighting the Jewish synagogue and the Christian
church. The righteousness with which Moses clothes his Jehova, the Great Soul adored
by the Hindu sages, the universal sympathy pervading Buddha’s mysticism, the loving
Fatherhood of Jesus’ God, the transcendent oneness of Mohammed’s Allah – these are
attributes of the one and the same Eternal Spirit. Sacrificial love is the central idea not
only of Christianity, but of all living religions. The victory over evil through suffering
and death is equally affirmed by the cross-bearing Christ, the self-denying Gautama the
Buddha, and the hemlock-drinking Socrates.”

Francis seemed to be pleased with the Muslem utterances. “God,” he commented, “is too
good and loving not to give all His creatures some knowledge of truth. In all religions
may be found scattered particles of the precious gold of truth, but, alas, these are often
mixed with piles of worthless dross, with errors and superstitions, which become
stumbling blocks on Godward road.” The last words were greeted by murmers of protest.
Unruffled, Francis went on. “What others grasped dimly, Jesus revealed in its glorious
finality. What others longed for themselves, and promised to others, Chirst possessed and
gave to the world in the name of, and with the authority of His Eternal Father.”
The light grew brighter on Francis’ face when he added with expressive gesticulation: “O
harken, for this is wonder!
Light looked down and saw men stumbling in darkness. “I will go,’ said Light, “and
make a pathway to guide men to their souls’ Everlasting Sun.”
Love looked down and was appalled by man’s inhumanity to man. “I will go,” said Love,
”to free men from their cruel selfishness.”
Joy looked down and saw men groaning in pain. “I will go,” said Joy, “and pour into
them the oil of gladness, lift their spirits on wings of hope and peace, put songs of praise
and wonder in their hearts.”
So came Light and shone.
So came Love and healed.
So came Joy and thrilled.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

The last words had scarcely died on Francis’ lips when Vizier Al-Gazhali turned on the
eyes of the Sultan, as he confessed: “Never before have I heard an exposition of the
Christian religion as impressive as this!”

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