During a recent visit to Sierra Leone, I attended a meeting in which I was the only Christian present. Every other person was a Muslim.
We started the meeting with a short prayer in accordance with the Islamic faith and I had no choice but to simply say “Amen” since I didn’t have a clue to what was said in Arabic.
I however got the shock of my life at the end of the meeting when it was unanimously agreed that we should have a closing prayer in line with the Christian faith.
I was stunned!
Not only did those Muslims joyfully recite the Lord’s Prayer; they did it perfectly.
In fact, let me confess to you that I mix up one or two verses of the Lord’s Prayer once in a while (It occasionally happens to Catechists and Pastors alike, you know).
But those Muslims at that meeting did it without any flaw! I couldn’t believe my ears.
I had to express my surprise to them all, but they didn’t see anything strange in it.
The kind of religious tolerance in Sierra Leone is worthy of note. It is a country where Muslims bear Christian names, and Christians also bear Muslim names.
In that country, Muslims celebrate Christmas with their Christian brothers and sisters. They go to church with them, and also pray with them.
The same thing holds for Christians over there. They celebrate Muslim festivals and also go to Mosques with their Muslim brothers and sisters when necessary.
One can hardly tell the difference between Christians and Muslims in Sierra Leone.
The day is usually marked with fanfare and exchange of gifts. And devoted Muslims also give alms during this period as mandated under the Islamic law.
The Holy Qur’an actually requires every Muslim to observe five key obligations known as the Five Pillars of Islam. These are:
- Confession of one’s faith in God and in His prophet Muhammad (PBUH);
- Ritual Worship – five times daily (i.e. before sunrise, after midday, at mid-afternoon, shortly after sunset, and in fullness of night);
- Almsgiving (i.e. The Zakat or “purification”);
- Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; and
- Pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca at least once in a lifetime.
As can be seen from these five pillars, the just concluded fasting is in fulfillment of one of the Islamic injunctions.
Today is also Sunday. It is a day that Christians go to church to worship God. It is a Holy Day for most Christians.
Perhaps we should call today a Unification Day. It is a day that both Muslims and Christians are observing their religious obligations.
It is a day that the Christians will say the Lord’s Prayer in the churches, and the Muslims will also recite Al Fatihah as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr.
As I write this piece, I keep thinking about Sierra Leone, and the incident of that day when those Muslims said the Lord’s Prayer.
Who knows what the Christians in that country will be doing today. I guess they will be feasting along with their Muslim counterparts, and probably be reciting Al-Fatihah along with them.
That’s the essence of religion.
Religion should be about friendship. It should be about sharing. It should be about tolerance. And it should be about cordial relationship.
Religion should unite us; not separate us.
It should breed love; not hatred.
It should spread peace; not war.
If we call ourselves Christian or Muslim brothers and sisters, we should demonstrate it in the way and manner that we relate with one another.
We should shun violence. We should stop killings and maiming in the name of religion. We should coexist as true brothers and sisters.
That is what religion should promote.
Today, I extend my greetings and well wishes to all my Muslim friends across the globe. I respect their religion, and I rejoice with them as they mark another Eid al Fitr.
Though I may not recite Al-Fatihah in the church today, though I may not know a single verse of the Holy Qur’an; I strongly believe that the two religions of Islam and Christianity in their basic forms – undiluted by bigots – preach peace and unity.
May there be peace in our Land.