Shortly before Christmas, the BBC reported from Kenya that the attempted murder by Al-Shabab gunmen of Christians on a bus from Nairobi to Mandera had been thwarted by the refusal of the Muslim passengers to be separated from the Christians. Today there is news that Salah Fareh, a Muslim teacher who took a lead in this incident had died from a bullet wound inflicted at the time. He is quoted as saying:
We are brothers.It's only the religion that is the difference, so I ask my brother Muslims to take care of the Christians so that the Christians also take care of us... and let us help one another and let us live together peacefully.
It has been all too easy in the last few years to become preoccupied with the narrative of Muslims raised in the West who, while not necessarily complicit in the depredations of Islamist radicals, can still treat their actions as excusable in the context of the West's supposed moral decadence and "imperialist" intentions toward Muslim-majority nations. Furthermore, the hostility displayed toward Muslim converts to Christianity in non-Muslim nations (the deplorable case of Nissar Hussein comes to mind) raises justifiable concern about the commitment of Islam to wholehearted religious tolerance.
Nevetheless, Our Lord's declaration that there is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for his friends is illuminated by the death of Salah Fareh. In his case, a choice was clearly presented, and yet he and his Muslim neighbours preferred death to security at the expense of the lives of their brother Christians. There is a message here that we all do well to contemplate.