Cardinal Cupich and Daoud Casewit, president of American Islamic College in Chicago, came together at the University of Notre Dame on Nov. 20 commemorate the 800th anniversary of the meeting of Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt and St. Francis of Assisi. The dialogue was hosted by the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement With Religion, part of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs. Its moderator, Ansari Institute executive director Mahan Mirza, drew a direct line from the meeting of Francis and al-Kamil to the meeting between Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar, in the United Arab Emirates in February. In his opening remarks, Cardinal Cupich noted that like the meeting of St. Francis and the al-Kamil, this discussion comes at a time when some people see a global conflict between Islam and the West. The 1219 meeting came during the Fifth Crusade, when the European powers tried to regain control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land by using Egypt as a stepping stone to Palestine, he said, but at the time, Egypt’s population included Muslims, Christians and Jews, whose faiths all share an Abrahamic root. One result of the respect developed during the historic meeting was the decision to trust the Franciscans with custody of Christian sites in the Holy Land, the cardinal said. That status that has been maintained to this day. The encounter, he said, was “a radical witness that our faith traditions must include the desire to get to know the other,” said Cardinal Cupich, who is the Catholic co-chair of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. That was borne out by Pope Francis and el-Tayeb earlier this year. “They hold out a hope that a concord of civilizations, instead of a clash, is the way of the future,” Cardinal Cupich said. “Dialogue should not simply aim at understanding. DiaIogue should foster relationships that are mutually enriching.” Casewit said that while examples of interfaith dialogue and cooperation might be seen as an aberration, the 13th century meeting was much more of an aberration for Francis than for al-Kamil, who has been seen as a just ruler to the mostly Coptic Christians in Egypt. “It was St. Francis who was crossing the threshold between faith communities, perhaps for the first time,” Casewit said. Casewit recited verses from the Quran that say that people of other faiths are to be respected, and that, indeed, God intended them to have different religious traditions, each with its own laws and practices, so that they might “vie with one another with good deeds.” Even so, he said, dialogue without the intention of converting one’s dialogue partner can be difficult for people of any religion. “Perhaps we would be better off doing more social work together,” Casewit said, engaging in joint community projects to improve life for all. Cardinal Cupich said that proselytism, or trying to increase the church’s “market share” by trying to convert people of other faiths, is wrong. Evangelization means Christians must witness to their faith with their lives, and hope to attract others to the faith that way. “We propose, we don’t impose,” he said. At the same time, members of different religious groups can each find their understanding of their own faiths deepened by encounters with others. “We – Muslims, Christians, Jews – are rooted in the Abrahamic faith,” he said, noting that God promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars. “It is in the visit of a stranger that he comes in and firms up his promise. The God of Abraham is always going to trick us to make us understand that he is greater than our imagination and he will come in the form of a stranger.” Keough School Dean R. Scott Appleby asked both speakers to respond to the conflict that exists within, rather than between, their faith traditions. Cardinal Cupich acknowledged that there are some Catholics who have “raised their voices” in opposition to some of the things Pope Francis is calling on everyone to do. “These are challenging times and he’s a challenging pope,” the cardinal said, especially when it comes to his insistence on caring for the Earth. “People may have felt safe doing what they always did.” The answer, the cardinal said, is to listen and respond with compassion, but to keep moving forward. He cautioned against being sidetracked by anonymous attacks on social media. “We should not be afraid of it,” he said. Casewit agreed that social media has led to a breakdown of civility in many places, including within religious communities. “People will attack in ways they wouldn’t when they were neighbors,” he said. While both speakers are from Chicago, they were invited to Notre Dame because they are leaders in Catholic-Muslim dialogue, said Daniel Olsen, director of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The office brought about a dozen members of the local Muslim-Catholic diologue group to listen. One of them, Rita George-Tvrkovic, said that interreligious dialogue must take place not only between religious leaders but also between ordinary members of different faith traditions. "We need the top-down leadership, but we also need to work from the bottom up and meet in the middle," said Tvrkovic-George, an associate professor of history, philosophy and theology at Benedictine University in Lisle. "If ordinary Catholuc and ordinary Muslims don't make the effort in our ordinary lives, interreligious dialogue will just be the hobby of the few. We need to integrate it in all areas of our lives if we are going to heed the call of Jesus in Matthew 25 to welcome the stranger."