After a year marred by violence that has led some people to suppose that confrontation is inevitable among humanity’s religions, a busload of Muslims in northeast Kenya has given us all a gift beyond measure for Christmas and the New Year.
On December 21, when armed al-Shabab extremists halted a bus near the town of Mandera, they asked the Muslims on board to help separate out the Christian passengers for execution – a pattern of attack with which they have repeatedly traumatised Kenyans in recent years.
But the Muslim passengers threw a human shield around their Christian compatriots and told the attackers that they would have to kill the entire busload, Muslims and Christians alike. Muslim women took off their traditional headscarves and handed them to non-Muslims to wear for protection.
Kenyan society is predominately Christian, but communities of Muslim, Bahai, Buddhist and African traditional religion add an important cultural, economic and social fabric to its citizenry.
Organisations such as the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya – composed of a cross-section of faith-based communities – work vigorously to promote inclusion, and speak to the long-standing tradition in Kenyan society promoting tolerance and inclusion.