Christians & Muslims: Loving Your Enemies Part Two
He awoke with a bullet inches from his skull.
Perhaps it was a threat, maybe a scare tactic, or a legitimate attempt at his life.
Either way, police offer little explanation for why author Gani Mehmetaj was nearly killed a year and half ago.
Mehmetaj pauses during our interview and sits up before saying, “Through social media, they [Islamic organisations] have threatened me many times, but I never took it seriously. Regardless if I did, I will still continue doing my job.”
Ernest Hemingway famously said, “The writer’s job is to tell the truth.”
And this is what Mehmetaj does each day through his novels, essays, and cinematography.
Mehmetaj tells the truth of Albanian-Serbian relations, as discussed in “Serbs & Albanians: Loving Your Enemies Part One,” and the corruption Islam has brought to Kosovar society.
Before the Ottoman Empire forced Islam upon the inhabitants of Kosova beginning in 1389, Christianity reigned under the Byzantine Empire.
It is these roots to which Mehmetaj hopes Albanians will return.
“For me and for many Albanians, Islam is something foreign that has been implanted in us by force.”
Because of this, Mehmetaj proudly supports Christianity.
However, others view his endorsement of the Christian faith as a threat to their identity. During the war, Serbs fought and killed in the name of Christ, drawing crosses on bodies they murdered.
To be Serb is to be Orthodox Christian. To be Albanian is to be Muslim, though many and most are only nominal, freely drinking alcohol, which is forbidden by the Qur’an.
Of the few devout, Mehmetaj acknowledges that many women are paid to wear head coverings and abayas, while men are paid to keep beards.
“They use our extreme poverty to manipulate us,” Mehmetaj said.
Corruption exists in other aspects of Kosovar society as well.
After the war, Saudi Arabia and Islamic organisations built mosques and donated money to advance radical, political Islam.
And it worked.
In 2015, the city of Kacanik became the so-called jihadist capital of Kosova when dozens of local men joined ISIS.
Four years later, the President of Turkey began financing the construction of a large mosque in Prishtina, sparking protests of neo-Ottomanism.
Mehmetaj’s writings shine a spotlight on corruption like this, drawing the attention of devout Muslims in Kosova and elsewhere. It is because of this he receives threats and, he suspects, the attempt to kill him.
However, not even critics nor bullets can stop Mehmetaj from furthering Christian values and democratic ideas in Kosova.
Though he may not personally follow Christ, Mehmetaj’s boldness has inspired believers in Kosova and across the world.
As Pastor Artur Krasniqi of Bashkësia e Popullit të Zotit (Fellowship of the Lord’s People Church) described last Sunday, we as Christians should be inspired by Mehmetaj’s willingness to endure persecution and challenged to courageously stand for Christ.
If a man who does not believe in Jesus is willing to risk his life for the advancement of the Gospel, how much more courageous should we be?
Our desire is not to return to the compulsory Christianity of the Byzantines nor the faulty faith of the Serbs, rather for Kosova to experience a movement of Christ-followers who love God and love others - Serbian and Albanian, Christian and Muslim alike.
– Kaylie Moss, Ten2 2021 Participant & Storyteller