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The Imam And The Pastor Documentary Review Essay

Religious leaders, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye from Kaduna in northern Nigeria today work together to teach warring militias and opposing religious leaders to resolve their conflicts peacefully. But they did not start out as peacemakers. Ten years ago, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James were mortal enemies, intent on killing one another in the name of religion.

In 1992, violent inter-religious conflict broke out in Kaduna State. Christians and Muslims fought each other in the marketplace, destroying each others’ crops and attacking each others’ families. Both the Imam and the Pastor were drawn into the fighting, and both paid a heavy price for their involvement — Imam Ashafa lost two brothers and his teacher, and Pastor James lost his hand.

Afterwards, they each dreamed of revenge against the other. Nonetheless, as leaders in their communities, the two men reluctantly agreed to meet. Imam Ashafa recalls what happened: “A mutual friend took both of us by the hand and said: ‘The two of you can pull this state together, or you can destroy it. Do something!’” Over the next few years, through increasingly frequent meetings and separate religious epiphanies, the two men slowly built mutual respect, and decided to work together to bridge the religious divides between their communities.

In 1995, Wuye and Ashafa formed the IMC, a religious grass-roots organization that successfully mediates between Christians and Muslims throughout Nigeria and has worked extensively in Chad, Kenya, and Sudan with amazing success stories. Their organization, now with over 20,000 community members, reaches into the militias and trains the country’s youth—as well as women, religious figures, traditional and tribal leaders—to become civic peace activists.  Under their leadership, Muslim and Christian youth jointly rebuilt the mosques and churches they once destroyed through war and violence and the IMC holds facilitative training sessions to engage community members in peaceful co-existence and cooperation.

Ashafa and Wuye’s story is featured in the documentary entitled 'The Imam and the Pastor', produced by FLT Films. A 2010 follow-up documentary 'An African Answer', chronicles their journey since and the reconciliation process approaches in neighbouring Kenya.

The dynamic duo remain committed to a peaceful Nigeria through their work with the Interfaith Mediation Centre.

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By Ernest Ogbozor

Pastor James Movel Wuye and Imam Muhammad Nurayan Ashafa are my model love and forgiveness exemplars.  Popularly known as the Imam and the Pastor, the two religious leaders would have never dreamed of speaking to each other or working together if not for the power of love and forgiveness.

The Imam and the Pastor were previous enemies drawn into religious conflicts that erupted in Zango-Kataf in Kaduna State, Nigeria in 1992. As leaders of groups of Muslims and Christian Militias, both suffered losses that they wished to avenge on each other. In addition to the hundreds of Christians and Muslims that died in the violence, Pastor Wuye lost one of his arms and the Imam lost his spiritual mentor.[1]

However, through prayers and the power of love and forgiveness, the two put aside their differences and began to work together to bridge the divide between their communities, creating the Interfaith Mediation Centre, a religious grassroots organization that has successfully mediated between Christians and Muslims throughout Nigeria. The Imam and the Pastor are now inseparable friends. In 2002 they signed the Kaduna Peace Declaration with many other religious leaders.[2]

They have been awarded the Heroes of Peace Award from the New York City-based Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.[3] They are now seeking to replicate their efforts through centers in Jos, Owerri and Lagos in Nigeria, and more recently they have conducted interfaith work in southern Sudan and Kenya. In June this year, Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye received honorary doctor of law degrees from the University of Massachusetts (UMASS), Boston for their exemplar work in interfaith mediation at the 44th UMASS commencement ceremony.[4] The definition of forgiveness would not be complete without the mention of the Imam and the Pastor as they have lived and practiced love and forgiveness in community governance.

[1]The Imam and the Pastor (10 Minute Clip). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oapAA0XUaH4&feature=youtube_gdata_player

[2] "The Imam and the Pastor: Cooperating for Peace: Interview with Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye." http://www.sgiquarterly.org/feature2008Apr-4.html

[3] "Peacemaker in Action." https://www.tanenbaum.org/award/peacemaker-action?page=1

[4] University of Massachusetts, Boston, "Honorary Degree & Chancellor's Medal Recipients." http://www.umb.edu/commencement/speakers_honorary_degrees/honorary_degree_chancellors_medal_recipients/

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