`PRAY FOR ME!’That was what Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, said to the Pope, the leader of the Catholics, the largest Christian family, said to have about a billion and a quarter members. On the face of it one would say, `Thank God!’ May be it indicates a silver lining in the dark clouds overhanging our world. One might be naive enough to believe that the evil that Islam has foisted on the world might soon be ending. And there would be no more annihilation of Christians in the Middle East, no more Muslims killing Muslims because they differ in their approach to salvation, to Allah, to God. Perhaps there would soon be no more ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and other criminal gangs hiding behind religion to massacre innocent fellow human beings. It would signal the end of hatred, genocide, terrorism, that began when the Jews began enforcing their rights over `the land flowing with milk and honey’ that The Almighty bequeathed to their forefathers. 

But, I am afraid, those are pipe dreams. Terrorism is not about to end. Genocide is not about to end. Suicide bombings are not about to end. Misguided human beings are not about to stop blowing up fellow human beings. We will all still have to be sleeping with one eye open. We will keep looking over our shoulders. The hundreds of Boko Haram members who are said to have made their way to southern Nigeria will not simply disappear. The world will simply remain no longer at ease.

Rouhani asking the Pope to pray for him could signify so many things. He may just be mimicking the Pope who often asks others to pray for him. Furthermore, Rouhani is on a business development trip to Europe and has since signed billions of dollars worth of contracts for aircraft, machinery and other goods to revive Iran’s economy which is comatose from decades of sanctions which have now been eased by the recently signed nuclear agreement with world powers. He is asking for prayers for success in his assignment as the public relations boss for Iran and no more. He is laundering the image of Iran to make the country more relevant in world affairs and this they have started with their alliance with Russia over Syria.

Another reason he may have asked for prayers may be to save him from taking the wrong steps or making wrong statements that may get him into trouble with the almighty Ayatollah or even the die-hard Iranian presidential guard.    

Make no mistake, the Iranians are not about to stop their expansionist incursions into other Middle Eastern countries. Yemen is a clear example. Their Shiite fighters in Iraq are not about to stop killing or brutalising the Sunnis. They will continue to fight ISIS since ISIS originates from Sunnis, their arch enemies. Above all, their ambition remains, `Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth within twenty-five years!’ Ayatollah Khamenei and his presidential guard have `Death to the Americans!’ in their DNA. Indeed anybody helping Israel to exist is on their firing line.

Rouhani is a wonderful, likeable and articulate representative of Iran. Without him the nuclear deal may not have been signed. But the world is still in danger. If it had been Ayatollah Khamenei that went to the Pope to ask for his prayers, I would have been dancing in the street – a shocking statement since I hardly dance! It means I would go mad with happiness.

Why can Muslims and Christians not live in peace? I admire Western Nigerians. There are Christians and Muslims in the same family. But you will never see them in open aggressive dispute. And that takes me back over forty years to the early nineteen seventies during which I worked in Tanzania for three years. Throughout my stay in Dar-es-Salaam I never once experienced major disagreement between adherents of the two religions. Indeed that reminds me of an instance when I, a `dashing’ young man propositioned a pretty girl who turned out to be a Muslim. She was to visit me for the first time one evening and I was taken aback when she arrived with her mother, her aunt and her sister all dressed unmistakably in Muslim attire. They had come with the impression that I, a Christian, was about to marry their daughter! I am hoping that despite the new word, `radicalisation’, in the English dictionary, that Dar-es-Salaam still remains a bay of peace. I am still looking forward to the day when the Ayatollah Khamenei, the leader of the Shiites with nearly a quarter of a billion adherents himself or the undisclosed leader of the Muslim Sunni sect, the largest religious sect in the world with about one and half billion adherents, will visit the Pope and ask him to `PRAY FOR ME!’

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