Updated: Feb 27
On several occasions now as a country, we have experienced situations, which revealed the unity and love among Kenyans regardless of diverse religious and cultural beliefs.
A lot of Kenyans look forward to the weekend to enjoy long hours of sleep to make up for the week’s late nights and early mornings. After watching a few funny videos on YouTube, a friend sent me a link to a film titled ‘Watu Wote’ which takes us through the journey of a brave Kenyan who stood up against religious intolerance, at the risk of losing his life.
The story of Mwalimu Salah Abdow Farah, a former Deputy Headteacher at Mandera Township Primary School is an inspiration and true symbol of love, tolerance, and patriotism towards our country. On 20 December 2015, Farah with other passengers were in a bus bound for the town of Mandera in Northern Kenya. A journey that began filled with euphoria of the festive season, with passengers chatting away and enjoying the scenic views of the magnificent country landscape.
It was abruptly cut short as the bus approached El-Wak after a group of heavily armed men suddenly appeared pointing their guns at the bus driver who was navigating the poor road at that section of the journey.
It immediately dawned on the driver the armed men were terrorists who began firing at the bus, forcing the driver to stop.
The terrorists violently stormed into the bus and began commanding the travelers to divide themselves between non-Muslim and Muslim passengers. Despite them being heavily armed, the Muslim passengers defied the orders and sat back. Female Muslim passengers showed love to their female colleagues by giving their headscarves to the non-Muslims on the bus. Mwalimu Farah’s reaction was the most noticeable in this incident as he confidently stood up and asked the attackers to either kill them all or leave them, an act that led to him being shot to death by the attackers together with other two passengers.
The unbowed Kenyan spirit of love and unity defied the al Shabaab militants and they were all ready to die together as Kenyans. This act of unity and defiance proved to be a saving factor for the passengers.
In a similar attack the year before, the attackers had separated passengers according to faith. Those who could prove they were Muslim, by reciting passages from the Quran, were spared. Those who couldn't were lined up and shot. Twenty-eight people were killed, with the only person, Douglas Ochwodho, surviving by a stroke of luck.
Recently, along the El Wak Kutulo road in Mandera, a driver saved 3 non-local construction workers from a similar incident by disobeying the order from the terrorists after they tried to stop him. Gladly the driver sped off and narrowly escaped death.
These events are fact that Kenyan Muslims and Christians are peace-loving people and would support each other even in difficult times. Terrorists are just but criminals trying to justify their evil acts by misusing religion.
Christians and Muslims in Eastleigh, South B and other places in Kenya have always lived together peacefully, helping each other in times of need and sharing in each other’s success. In the businesses and employment sector, they have worked together as colleagues and thrived. Our children continue to grow and learn together, extending unity and religious tolerance to generations ahead.
Our unity will face challenges such as violent extremism that seeks to turn religion into a divisive issue. We remain unbowed and determined to ensure that no Kenyan, Muslim or Christian will ever be intimidated by terrorism.