In March of this year, I had a conversation with a Sierra Leonian member of the church where I am vicar. He lives with his wife and children in London and sends financial support to the village in Sierra Leone where he grew up. ‘Giles’, he said, ‘I want to help rebuild the church. But I am paying for the rebuilding of the mosque, first. It was in a terrible state, all falling down. Look.’ He pulled out his smartphone and showed me a video. In a dusty clearing in the forest, surrounded by houses, a piece of corrugated iron roofing was being formally presented to the elders sitting grandly in armchairs. With delight they received the gift and added it to the pile nearby, soon to be used for the completion of the mosque.
‘When I have finished the mosque, I will pay for the church. That’s OK, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, of course,’ I said. ‘It’s good that you’re helping to get the mosque rebuilt.’
‘Thank you. I thought you would say that but I wanted to get your advice.’
‘I think relations between Christian and Muslim are good, in Sierra Leone?’
‘Oh yes. We all intermarry. It’s all fine.’
In St John’s there is also a Ugandan family, of which the husband is of Muslim heritage and keeps Ramadan while the wife is Christian. Their daughter observes both Lent and Ramadan and was very pleased when she discovered that I also keep both fasts.