On December 21, a group of gunmen believed to be part of the Somalia-based militant group al-Shabaab attacked a bus near Mandera, in northern Kenya. They demanded the separation of Muslims from Christians. To have followed their orders would likely have saved the lives of the Muslim passengers and almost certainly resulted in the deaths of the Christian passengers. But Muslim schoolteacher Salah Farah and other Muslims on the bus refused, telling the militants that they would have to kill all sixty-two persons aboard or else leave.
An argument ensued. The gunmen did leave, but first they shot Salah Farah in the arm and hip. Two other passengers were also wounded, and two more killed.
Salah Farah was taken to a hospital for treatment. There, he told journalists, “I do not know what got into me, but I knew these were bad people and had to be stopped.” In an interview with Voice of America, he said, “We are brothers. It’s only the religion that is the difference, so I ask my brother Muslims to take care of the Christians, so that the Christians also take care of us… And let us help one another and let us live together peacefully.”
On January 17, Salah Farah’s recovery took a sudden turn, and the next day he died of his injuries. He leaves behind a family with five children, for whom he was the sole breadwinner.
Salah Farah’s family, Kenyan church representatives, Muslim leaders, and government officials have all honored him as a hero and a martyr, and called upon Kenyans and the international community to heed his words and example.
The cost to most of us on most days is so much less, to speak up for right, to stand by those who are persecuted, to seek to live as one with those of different faiths or race or income or life experiences, to show respect and enact compassion and create justice. How will your life honor Salah Farah this day?
“Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friend.” – John 15:13