http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=cCK3wnGnDZY&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DcCK3wnGnDZYImam 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. 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.