Seton Hill University will show the Westmoreland County premiere of “The Sultan and the Saint,” a docudrama film about Muslim-Christian peace, on Wednesday. The screening begins at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) and is free to the public, and a reception will follow for further discussion.
Hassan Bakri, a Pittsburgh area dental specialist and donor to the film, will be presented with the “Sultan and Saint Peacemaker Award” for his aspiration to create connections among different faiths. According to Fran Leap, professor of religious studies and theology, Bakri has been connected to SHU for over two decades and reached out to see if the university would host the film premiere for the county.
The film centers around the story Saint Francis of Assisi, a Christian preacher, who crossed enemy lines during the Crusades to meet Muslim ruler Al-Malik Al-Kamil.
“I look forward to the conversations and analysis and inspiration that will continue in our community and at SHU as a result of the story shared through this film,” Leap said. “Interfaith dialogue has always been strong at Seton Hill. This story is another inspiration for us, and an affirmation of the importance of our work for the greater community.”
Various professors are encouraging or requiring their students to attend, including Roni Kay O’Dell, assistant professor of political science. Leap reached out to O’Dell and other professors because the event is “multidisciplinary” and shows the need to overcome polarization and understanding other people’s perspectives.
“I really hope [students] gain a raised understanding of other religions, and the idea that there are other perspectives out there and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” O’Dell said. “It’s really important to understand how different people think, and building that connection between groups is really essential for a better world where peace can exist and where we can address major problems that affect us all.”