The whole city of Nouakchott is overwhelmed with grief at this time – Muslims and Christians alike. Many, many people loved Chris. At the same time, I have read anonymous blog postings on the internet which attempt to justify his murder in the name of Islam.
The Fourth Forum for Al-Azhar Graduates, June 28-30, 2009
I write these words at a very painful time for me personally, after events which make us acutely aware of the urgent need for peacemaking. I write from the city of Nouakchott, Mauritania, where two days ago Al-Qāʿida in the Islamic Maghreb murdered a very dear friend and colleague of mine, Chris Leggett. I have known Chris personally for several years, and his daughter is a good friend of my daughter. Chris was Director of a humanitarian organization which provides vocational training to poor, unemployed Mauritanians and to prisoners in Mauritanian jails. He was well-known throughout the city of Nouakchott for his warm, friendly personality, for his humility, for his integrity and high moral character, for his concern for the poor, and most of all for his deep love for the Mauritanian people. He loved the people of Mauritania so much that I know he would have been happy to give his life for them. Chris’s father told the press yesterday, “Knowing Chris as we know him, he would have been willing to help those who brought harm to him, had he only had the chance.”
The whole city of Nouakchott is overwhelmed with grief at this time – Mauritanians and foreigners alike, Muslims and Christians alike. Many, many people loved Chris, and many Mauritanians whom I do not even know have approached me in the street to express their condolences over his death. At the same time, I have read anonymous blog postings on the internet which attempt to justify his murder in the name of Islam, and which call for a general jihad against all Westerners and Christians. Chris leaves a wife and four children, aged 6-14. His children will grow up fatherless, wondering what could motivate people to murder such a kind and humble man or to justify such a murder in the name of religion. These children need to hear a strong message from the religious leaders of the Muslim world, expressing compassion upon them, and assuring them that Chris’s murderers have betrayed Islam because “Whoever kills a soul unjustly, it is as though he killed the whole human race.”
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