A long weekend begins tomorrow. First, the birthday of the Muslim prophet Mohamed (pbh) who was born in 570 and died some 61 years later. And on the following day, the sad day when Christians believe Jesus was crucified, as part of a commemoration marking the most important religious feast in the Christian liturgical year – the resurrection of Christ.
It comes just few years after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the birthday of Christ, Christmas, came so close to each other. Signs perhaps of how the two faiths should learn to live side by side.
All of this comes at a time when there is not necessarily a declared war between the two faiths, but violence perpetrated in the name of Islam is tearing the rooftops.
This has been made particularly awful by the killing last month of the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul in Iraq, Faraj Rahho. “It is a heavy Cross for our Church, ahead of Easter”, Rabban al Qas, bishop of Arbil, told AsiaNews. But it was not just a heavy cross for the church, but for all humanity.
In my view, religious conflict is never justified. And it is only when mankind gets to a sub-human level that we tend to kill each other in the name of God. Where is our care for the sick and our watch over the poor?
Sierra Leone has been blessed in that religious intolerance has never reached an intolerable level. But we must continue to goad it as it is and not allow the young and hyper pastors and Imams not to get to where they sometimes get very close to – denouncing the other faith.
I often feel very gratified when the Pope expresses concern over issues affecting Palestinians and other Arabs. But not a single Muslim organisation or denomination did I hear denounce the brutal killing of Archbishop Faraj Rahho. But look at the way they celebrated when those young lads were killed in religious school in Israel. Or the way they reacted following the Danish cartoons. How long must we allow this to continue? There are many other ways to express one’s disapproval than being violent and hateful.
Islam is a peaceful religion, as clearly shown by its diction. Even greetings are wishes of peace. But bigots in the faith under the guise of political Islam and the failure by moderates to speak out have only worsened the situation. And the moderates who have not shouted enough have had their voices drowned out by the atrocities of the few.
The Muslim world is probably the richest in the world, with the most precious commodity – oil – aplenty. However, their humanitarian assistance is negligible at best. I remember, during the civil war here visiting the old Fourah Bay College building at Cline Town. A Muslim organisation had erected a makeshift mosque for the displaced people, without helping them with a toilet. I observed to one of them that prayers are offered from a sound mind and a clean body. Without a toilet and water facility, that was not assured.
I also remember as a leader of the Muslim students at Fourah Bay College, approaching the Iranian cultural centre for help to Muslim students as Ramadan approached. They would not offer a single penny. But when their so-called Islamic Revolution approached just a few months later, they invited me to make arrangements for them to mark it on campus. Just when did the “Islamic Revolution of Iran” supersede the holy month of fasting?
As a Muslim myself, I sometimes wonder whether the Quran my father taught me is the same book some other Muslims use to justify mayhem and carnage all in the name of Allah. The resources used to buy arms for all this madness can be better used to provide alms. After all one of the five pillars of the religion is to pay the poor rate. Where is that rate going? Where is our conscience as Muslims?
Enjoy your holiday. And have Sierra Leone and God in whatever you do in the today and tomorrow. By Umaru Fofana