I am not Jewish so I wonder if this experience is worthy to share on this website. Judaism is not very much known in my country, Nigeria. The closest (popular) thing we have to Judaism is the content of the Old Testament of the Bible, and maybe my Hebrew name, a gift from my parents who read the Bible so much. But I was fortunate enough to meet a young Jewish woman at a listening communication class in Nigeria’s University of Ibadan. This happened three years ago, but it has left a lasting impression on me.

That morning our lecturer had been explaining the common myths associated with listening habits and he had given us mind-boggling group tasks. A young man had whistled and said “Holy Mary, help your children!”

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Sarah, the girl who practiced Judaism, had looked at him with a sort of amusement that was almost chastising. The young man had approached our group after class to ask Sarah, quite playfully, why she had looked at him the way she did. And that day, I witnessed firsthand how you can confidently speak up about a seemingly unpopular – and unknown- belief and still earn the respect of those who do not share your views.

Sarah had begun by saying that it is actually wrong to pray to any being other than God. That got some negative reactions from some among us. Sarah explained herself further, using the class that we just had as an example. “Who gave us the assignment?” she asked.

“The lecturer,” everyone replied.

“And who do give our assignments to when we are done?” she asked.

“Him!” we all replied.

“And wouldn’t we infuriate the lecturer if we preferred to submit our assignment to his assistant instead?”

We all understood her point and got where her argument was headed. All of us but one girl who would have none of it. She said so many despicable things to Sarah, adding that those who practiced Judaism were part of what formed the bane of Christianity.

I expected Sarah to get angry. If she had retorted with a worse response, I would not have been surprised. But Sarah was calm when she said, “The perfect faith in one true Creator, blessed be His name, and His love for us all cannot be the bane of Christianity. If we worship in a way that shows love for fellow men, there will be less hatred among people. True love for mankind could not have led to the difficulties of a religion that professed to be platform for the propagation of neighborly love.”

We agreed with her again and her response brought the discussion to an end.

I was impressed by the calm way Sarah responded to that angry young woman’s display of immaturity, and I realized that she had said things that sounded a little like what was in the Ten Commandments, but in a way that showed deep commitment and conviction.

I tried to chat her up now and then before and after classes and I she made me to begin to regard the Old Testament in a different way, with greater respect. She spoke about the Torah too, but what touched me so much was her firm belief in the resurrection of the dead, which I understood to be God’s way of remembering those we had lost to the cold clutches of death. I had not heard about it with this much clarity and assurance in my local Christian fellowship at school. The healthier, more refreshing way she had explained this concept filled me with hope.

I had recently lost my best friend to gunshot wounds inflicted by armed robbers. While I grieved over this fresh pain, Sarah’s words kept coming back to me, and she unwittingly helped me to bear that unforgettable loss. I am writing this note in Nigeria as a way of thanking Sarah for sharing her convincing arguments and unwavering faith and showing her my appreciation.