In a rare sign of solidarity, a number of French Muslims attended church services last Sunday to show their respect for Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered by jihadists claiming allegiance to Islamic State last week.
The move was led by Mohammed Karabila, the leader of the mosque in Saint Etienne Du Rouvray where Father Hamel was killed. Mr Karabila also indicated that his mosque would not participate in preparations for the burial of the local jihadist shot dead by police, thus denying any opportunity for radicals to use the occasion to glorify their actions or claim the murderers of Father Hamel were “martyrs”.
Mr Karabila, who heads the Muslim worship committee for the Haute Normadie region, had become a personal friend of Father Hamel as a result of them both serving on an inter-faith committee for the last 18 months.
Islamist groups such as Islamic State, or those using political means to achieve similar goals, seek to portray Christians as inferior to Muslims and objects of hate and disgust. However, personal relationships between ordinary Muslims and ordinary Christians, such as that between Mohammed Karabila and Father Hamel, have possibly the greatest potential to prevent the radicalisation of young Muslims.
Jesus Christ, in the Gospels, clearly indicated that these relationships with “men of peace” would not compromise the Gospel of the kingdom of God. Rather, they are based on a recognition that we are fellow human beings, created in the image of God who has put eternity in our hearts.
It is our task, as the hands and feet of Christ on this earth, to be seeking out those from other faiths who are sincerely seeking Him, and building bridges of relationships that will be a channel for the saving grace and love of Christ to flow through, bringing the life changing knowledge of the Truth that salvation is found in Christ alone.
- Give thanks for the relationships between Father Jacques Hamel and Mohammed Karabila, that has led the Christian and Muslim communities in this region to support and comfort each other.
- Pray for this French community as they grieve the loss of their priest, and also come to terms with the attack itself. Pray that it will not cause a divide between Christians and Muslims, but rather, the building of more bridges of relationships that will lead many to come to know the saving love of Christ Jesus.
- Pray for Christians in Europe and across the world to have the courage and desire to reach out to their Muslim neighbours in genuine relationships, and for many young Muslims to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
Acts 13 vs 47: “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.””