The Imam and the Pastor and pastor unite for message of peace, tolerance

Geoff Strong October 30, 2008

Finding common ground: Imam Muhammed Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye of Nigeria are in Melbourne.

Finding common ground: Imam Muhammed Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye of Nigeria are in Melbourne. Photo: Simon Schluter

IN THIS age of suspicion they seem the oddest of couples: a Muslim imam and Pentecostal Christian pastor, who once wanted to kill each other.

At one time both were militia leaders — and also victims — of religious conflict in Nigeria. Now they have found answers in their own faiths to become best friends.

Visiting Australia with their tolerance message, they hope to harness our multiculturalism into a global demonstration that different beliefs are no impediment to peace.


Pastor James Wuye lost most of his right forearm to a machete attack, and Imam Muhammed Ashafa lost family and a spiritual adviser before they met and to their surprise discovered common ground and eventually trust.

Their journey sparked the establishment of a body called the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Centre in the religiously divided city of Kaduna in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria.

However, even the name became contentious, as Pastor Wuye recalls: “Some Christians objected that we had the Muslim name first. I told them the order did not matter.

Eventually the organisation reached out to a growing Nigerian Jewish population, as well as people of traditional animist beliefs, and evolved into the Interfaith Mediation Centre.

Nigeria, one of the most religiously committed nations on earth, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south with both wanting to get more territory. “The Christians wanted to plant the Bible on the Niger border and the Muslims wanted to take the Koran to the sea,” said Imam Ashafa.

They were brought together at the provincial government houses in Kaduna and a journalist linked their hands. Soon after, Imam Ashafa heard a sermon at his mosque that said forgiveness of his enemies was a central tenet of true Islam.

For Pastor Wuye the journey to trust was longer — about three years by his reckoning. Now he has a message for fellow Pentecostals and other Christian fundamentalists who think their religious path is the only truth.

“There is more than one way to truth, and remember what Jesus said about loving their neighbours.” Imam Ashafa has a similar message for Islamic extremists.

Both have travelled to other world trouble spots to carry their message and are the subject of an award-winning documentary by Palestinian filmmaker Imad Karman, The Imam and the Pastor.


3 thoughts on “The Imam and the Pastor

  1. I haven’t watched the YouTube yet, and when I do it might clear things up, but a casual reading makes me wonder about

    “Now he has a message for fellow Pentecostals and other Christian fundamentalists who think their religious path is the only truth.There is more than one way to truth”.

    Sounds problematic, but I’ll watch the vid later. (So, hold your fire….)

  2. I saw the trailer. The Pastor seems like a very forgiving man.

    I am sure that if you objectively research what has been going on in Nigeria you will clearly see that Muslim extremists have been carrying out killings for years.

    The question for Christians is what to do about it.

    If they retaliate, (which any other group of people would naturally do), the press reports this as if Christians and Muslims are killing each other in sectarian violence.

    To say that Christians and Muslims hate each other and overcome this and stop killing is just not realizing the real problem here.

    I am sure Bones will be able to scour the internet and find reports of Christians killing Muslims there. And then he will have proven what? Will he conclude that Christians are as bad as Muslims?

    Objective people know that Muslim extremists are murdering families, destroying churches. Hundreds of churches have been destroyed there. But, the problem is that if Christians retaliate, then
    that is used as reason for more violence.

    It’s very easy for Christians in Australia to just say that the Christians in Nigeria should just try to defend their churches but never fight back, but you have never experienced anything like this.

    It’s one thing for Christians to be martyred. But does that mean people living in a country should allow their country to be slowly taken over by violent thugs? Continually have their churches bombed – children killed and just do what? Keep moving south? Give up? Accept Sharian law?

    This is serious stuff. I’m happy for a particular town to have the religious leaders work together to prevent violence. I’m all for it.

    And we need to pray for peace. But, the situation in Nigeria is a perfect example of what we have been talking about in other threads. Once again – if the Muslims extremists would stop bombing churches and killing christians for not converting – we could solve the problem.

    It would be great if nobody bearing the name Christian retaliated.

    But Nigerian churches need incredible security, and the government needs support to stop Muslim thugs from murdering people in Nigeria.

    I am NOT demonizing Muslims. But the problem in Nigeria is not the Brownies or the Christians Womens Temperance Society.
    It is Muslims groups who want Sharia law.

    No doubt Bones will object to my saying “They started it”, but it matters!

    If ten people start punching me on the street in Australia, and i punch one back – am I a villain? do we all need anger management therapy? No! The people who started punching the me need to be punished, and or told to stop it.

    And yes, i know people from Nigeria.

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