I go by James, though many people still call me by my Muslim name. My father is Al Hajj, and my great-grandfather was also Al Hajj.* I am from the capital city of Kampala, Uganda. I grew up as a Muslim, and from as early as I can remember, I hated Jews. This hatred increased after an event that happened in my country in 1976, when Palestinians hijacked a French plane and forced it to land at the Entebbe Airport. In response, the Israelis organized an operation to rescue these people from Entebbe. In the process, soldiers of the Uganda army were killed, and the airport was partially destroyed.
When we heard the news that the Israelis had freed the hostages, pressure was put on us to hate the Jews even more. In the mosque that Friday, they tried to incite us to violence. We were inflamed with hatred. Some people were being trained locally to help the Palestinians fight the Jews, and I wished that I were old enough to be a part of that effort. Even though there were no Jehudis” where I lived, I wanted to kill them. So I grew up with that kind of hateful sentiment instilled in me.
In 1987 I received the gospel of my Lord Jesus. It is difficult to explain fully what went on in my life. The moment I received Jesus, I was changed. I don’t know exactly what God did in my spirit, but suddenly, I had a love for the Jews that I cannot explain. After all, my savior was Jewish. The prophets who spoke of him were Jewish. How could I hate a people that my God loved so much? I longed to meet Jews and be friends with them, despite the persecution I got for turning away from Islam.
The first time I ever left Uganda, I traveled to Kenya and Nigeria. The first thing I did when I got to foreign soil was look for the Israeli Embassy. I wanted to look at these Jews for whom God had given me such an immense love. I did meet some Jews at the embassy, and they gave me some books designed for tourists to Jerusalem. It felt so good.
I really cannot explain this new love for the Jewish people. I do not have a single Jewish friend. But I pray for them. In fact, I prayed that Israel would open an embassy in our country, because people from our country who want to go to Israel had to go through Kenya. So I prayed and prayed and now, by the grace of God, Israel has a consulate in our country. I believe that very soon I will visit Israel.
It is my prayer that my fellow Muslims will also realize this love for the Jews. I believe the hate I had towards them was from the devil. Nobody told me to begin loving the Jews; something just happened inside me. This was a gift from the God of Israel, I’m sure. And now I love them.
* Al Hajj refers to those devout Muslims who have made the journey to Ka’ba and Haram, in Mecca, and performed specific Arka’n (rites) in a specific sequence.