The airwaves and newspapers of Liberia carried the sudden and shocking news that Sheikh Kafumba Konneh died last Monday, July 20, 2015. In typical Islamic tradition, his funeral was quickly arranged for the next Tuesday, July 21, 2015. The funeral rites for this illustrious statesman, Islamic scholar and leader were held at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in central Monrovia, about 4 pm. An array of religious leaders, government officials and a host of ordinary Liberians and foreigners were there to pay their last respects to this noble man of the land. What do we learn from his life and death in general to help us live better? Let us examine in brief below.
As I thought about his life, contributions to both religious and political life in Liberia and his sudden death at the age of seventy-two, the saying in Hebrews 12:4, “By means of his faith Abel still speaks, though he is dead” came to mind. In some significant ways the dead do continue to speak to us the living by means of their deeds good or bad. In one sense when we die we take nothing out of this world. Paul writes: “We brought nothing in this world and it is certain we take nothing out” (Timothy 6:7). Many of the things some of us count so dear in life we will leave behind when we take our exit from this world: material possessions, money, clothes, food, drinks, sex, power, positions, and degrees. They become of no use to us when we die.
On the other hand, the Bible reminds us vividly that our deeds will follow us. The writer of Revelation has this to say about what the dead carry with them: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes”, says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds will follow them” (Revelation 14:13). The deeds of all humans will follow them in the life after this one and will testify in their favor or against them. Paul is clear about this when he penned down these words: “For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him.
We will each receive what we deserve, according to everything we have done in our bodily life, good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Paul adds that what we get will be in proportion to our faith and what we do as a consequence of our faith, if we sow sparingly we will reap sparingly; if we sow bountifully we will reap bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6). “You are God’s building. Using the gift that God gave me, I did the work of an expert builder and land the foundation, and someone else is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds… Some will use gold or silver or precious stones in building on the foundation; others will use wood or grass or straw. And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it” (1 Corinthians 3:9-13).
It is therefore important how each one of us lives now. Our faith, our thoughts, our words and actions, and our inactions will work in our favor or against us on the Day of Judgment. Our faith and our deeds can also help those coming after us or can hinder their own performance. Sheikh Konneh lived and served well over the years. He played crucial roles as a judge, a scholar and a religious leader in restoring and promoting peace and religious mutual co-existence.
He and the likes of the Late Archbishop George Daniel Browne, Archbishop Michael Francis, many living now or dead in the inter-faith mediation committee (later changed to the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia), along with the women, and others worked, or better still, risked their lives to bring peace to Liberia during the heights of the civil war. He will be best remembered nationally and internationally as a restorer and promoter of peace in Liberia, and as one of those who labored for advancing religious tolerance at a time when it would have been easy to turn our civil war into a religious one between Christians and Muslims. He and others of both sides of the inter-religious council were treated with suspect and severely criticized for too closely aligning with the other religion (Christianity or Islam).
How do we honor his memory? We do so by continuing to promote peace in whatever helpful ways. We show our deepest appreciation to his life and work by maintaining and advancing religious tolerance. Under his leadership as the head of the National Muslim Council of Liberia and under the leadership of Archbishop Jonathan B. B. Hart of the Liberia Council of Churches during the Ebola outbreak pastors and imams travelled in pairs to several counties of Liberia and together at the same workshops taught Christians and Muslims to suspend certain religious practices that were deemed dangerous to the fight against Ebola.
Both religions taught their members that both the Bible and Koran teach that God is more interested in preserving the living and their health than in burial rites, especially those judged dangerous to the living. It was very telling for ordinary Muslims and Christians to see their leaders work together in promoting the common good of all society. We must not let any religious fervor spoil such a mutual collaboration. Let us all both Muslims and Christian pray, work for and encourage others to be promoters of peace and tolerance.