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Turn the other cheek to provocateurs


SOMEWHERE out there, possibly hidden behind more hard-hitting documentaries, lies a love story.

It's not the traditional romantic story.

No moments a la The Notebook, no Rick Blaine to make the sacrifice of letting the one he loves leave with her husband for the greater good (Casablanca); neither is there a scene where the poor boy gets to date a Hollywood star (Notting Hill).

This is the story about two men who spend their lives promoting harmony between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.

The documentary, The Imam and the Pastor, follows pastor James Wuye and imam Mohammad Ashafa who were former members of competing militias in Nigeria.

Wuye lost his hand, while Ashafa's spiritual mentor and two close relatives were killed.

For years, both vowed to avenge the deaths and injuries of their loved ones by killing each other.

That was the mood, temperament and intent until they met in 1995 and experienced personal transformations through their friendship.

The two now head the Inter-Faith Mediation Centre where they build relationships between Muslim and Christian clergy and leading training in conflict prevention, mediation, and reconciliation. Essentially, love is an important element in religion.

Of course, it's not the only love story.

The Arab Spring saw Christians form a ring around Muslims to protect them during their prayers at demonstrations in Cairo, Egypt, while last year, Muslims turned up for the Coptic Christmas mass where they offered their bodies and lives as "shields" to Egypt's threatened Christian community.

Scenes like these are something the world should tune in to and promote heavily on social networking sites, for the simple reason that it gives us a glimpse of charitable and compassionate acts that religion beckons us.

Scenes like these can either build bridges between communities or strengthened existing ones. Or in some cases repair bonds which may have been fractured by a low-budget film entitled Innocence of Muslims, which riled Muslims.

The film, which was sadly produced by a Christian extremist (though this is an oxymoron as religions and their respective holy text do not promote hatred), has indirectly led to the death of US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and injured others.

As a Christian, it saddens me that such acts were carried out by those who proclaim to be of the faith as they have gone against the commandment of "loving thy neighbour".

Just as the tagline for Michael Bay's Armageddon which reads: "Earth's darkest day will be man's finest hour", I would be foolish not to point out that this incident has also seen calls for restraint by Muslims and non-Muslims condemning the vile video.

The Samwise Gamgee (yes, the Hobbit in the Lord of the Rings) in me would like to believe "that there is some good in this world worth fighting for" with religious harmony being one of them.

Yet agent provocateurs lurk in every corner of the world, always scheming to incite tension between communities, because as Alfred Pennyworth once told Bruce Wayne (Batman): "Some men just want to watch the world burn".

The thing is, in some cases fire cannot be fought with fire. Such stupid acts, like making an insulting video, have to be doused by standing up for those hurt by the video. We need to stand up for our neighbour.

Fire from a molotov cocktail engulfing barbed wire that surrounds the US embassy during a protest against the American-made film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ that ridicules Islam in Jakarta on Monday. AP pic

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