In the past week, the US media has been replete with commentary about the most recent Al Qaeda threat calling on the Christian West, “even the crusader-in-chief George W. Bush”, to either “abandon their unbelief and repent and enter into the light of Islam” or face its wrath.
Sultan Mbombo Njoya, King of the Bamoun at the Ordination of Father Mbouapegnigni
Journalists, political pundits, and other “experts” are in a frenzy over the Clash of Civilizations which is finally upon us, and over Islam's "unrelenting assault" on Christianity. As one columnist writes, “the West's continued existence — at least from the perspective of Islamist militants — depends upon our willingness to bow to Islam.”
Matters have not been helped by the videotape of two Fox News journalists forcefully being converted to Islam during their detention by a shadowy Islamic group in Gaza.
To people from regions and countries where moderate versions of Islam and Christianity live peacefully side by side, the ongoing clash between “Western Christendom” and the Muslim world is quite at odds with their daily reality – a reality which has been drowned out by the strident calls for war and annihilation by extremists on both sides of Huntington’s civilization divide.
This point was brought home recently by an article in Cameroon's Catholic weekly, l'effort camerounais, about a Christian - Muslim celebration in the Cameroonian Muslim town of Foumban. The occasion was the ordination of a Foumban native to the Catholic priesthood - an event which was graced by the presence the Muslim Sultan of Foumban, Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya whose lineage has ruled the Bamoun since the 14th century.
Anyone whose sole contact with Islam has been through the western media, or is only as recent as 9/11, would have expected the Sultan to issue a Fatwa against one of his subjects who had turned his back on Islam. However, in Cameroon and in other West African countries, the interaction between Islam and Christianity generally deviates from the standard Western script. So there was no Fatwa from the Sultan. Instead, he led a delegation of prominent Muslims to the Foumban Cathedral to honor the new priest.
According to the article,
Foumban, a renowned Moslem town in the western province of Cameroon was on Saturday July 29 at the crossroad of two great historic Christian's events. The town glittered with a dazzling array of dignitaries from far and near who came either to bid their last farewell to the defunct president of the Evangelical Church of Cameroon, Pastor Joseph Forchive, who died July 10 or to witness the 7th son of Bamoum being raised to the Catholic Priesthood.
His majesty, Sultan Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya, the spiritual and traditional leader of the Bamoum kingdom, was among the hundreds of Moslems who joined the catholic Christians at St. Catherine of Sienna's Parish church, to witness the Ordination of Rev. Blaise Mbouapegnigni.
Rev. Blaise is the 3rd of the seven sons of Bamoun to be ordained Priest on Bamoun soil. Swathed from head to toe in the black and white robes of his office and basking in the aura of power that surrounds him, Sultan Ibrahim Njoya stormed the Church of St. Catherine of Sienna 10 minutes before the beginning of Holy Mass.
He edged slowly through a crowd of about 100 men, who parted reflexively as he moved towards the sanctuary where a special place was set-aside for him and his entourage. Before the introductory rites, the Sultan spoke after the Parish priest of St. Catherine Parish, Rev. Fr. Mathias Ngouwe.
… The sultan praised God for giving his people another pastor after taking away one, referring to the late Pastor Forchive who was laid to rest in Foumban the same day. He tasked Christians and Moslems in Foumban to continue to live as one people irrespective of their different expressions in worshipping the same God. ...
The Ordination Rites were conducted after the homily. The Parish priest of St. Catherine of Sienna, Rev. Fr. Ngouwe poured encomiums on the sultan for what he qualified as "his inestimable support" to the Catholic faith that is surprisingly growing very fast in the Moslem Bamoum Kingdom.
At the end of the Mass, Priests and Religious were led to the Sultan's Palace where the Sultan organized a civic reception for them.
A great lesson in religious respect, tolerance and cohabitation, and also a reminder to the West that Islam, like Christianity, comes in different flavors, and that both religions have their own share of extremists, fundamentalists and kooks…