The Imam and the Pastor

The Imam and the Pastor

 

“My hate for Muslims had no limits,” said the Pastor. “We had a zeal to protect and revive the glory of Islam,” said the Imam.

Emerging from the 1990s in Northern Nigeria after being on the frontlines of confrontations that saw thousands dead, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye are two of the unlikeliest of allies.

They both came out of the heart of the religious teachings of their communities to become bitter enemies determined to kill one another. Imam Ashafa was committed to the total Islamization of Nigeria, and Pastor James to its total evangelization.

Please click here to read the full article

Going Beyond the Rhetoric: The Muslim Aid-UMCOR partnership in Sri Lanka

Going Beyond the Rhetoric: The Muslim Aid-UMCOR partnership in Sri Lanka

Poverty, inequity, and social injustice are matters of conscience and demand a systematic response.  Civil society plays a key role in development with Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) at the forefront of initiatives aimed at helping to achieve increased tolerance, social cohesion and understanding.

Faith communities have undeniably had as strong a history of internecine strife and  struggle as they have of cooperation and collaboration.  It is against this framework of internal and external disagreement that there is a need to build and sustain existing links and to explore new initiatives.

This paper highlights practical examples of dialogue and collaboration between Muslim Aid and UMCOR showing how different faith communities make natural allies for the promotion and success of cross border linking and play a part in making humanitarian work
more efficient and effective whilst showing that inter-faith cooperation means something practical as well as spiritual.

To read more, please click here

Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations

Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations

The ground-breaking report, based on more than 123,000 surveys conducted in 55 countries and areas between 2006 and 2010, explores areas of both respect and tension between Western and majority Muslim societies. It also examines the differences between individuals who express an interest in Muslim-West engagement and those who do not.

 

News Release:New report shows market towns pose threat to small Muslim Communities in the UK

Muslims and their mosques face a higher level of threats and intimidation in UK suburbs and market towns than in big cities, according to a new report. Case studies reveal that examples such as a Muslim woman who was punched and called a “terrorist” in front of her petrified daughter are not uncommon.

Such attacks often go unreported, and in this case the woman was too scared to inform the police. She also played down the incident to reduce her child’s distress, and avoided explaining why she was singled out for wearing a burka and being a Muslim woman.  The new study Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK Case Studies, published 27 November reveals that this kind of unprovoked incident is a largely hidden experience that is insufficiently acknowledged and understood outside of the communities where they occur.  The report  is part of a ten year academic research project led by the University of Exeter’s European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC). It captures a snapshot of these experiences which are often unrecognised by the media, politicians and wider British society. The research also combines an academic approach to identifying world events and policy information that inform the way reactions and actions towards Muslims can be influenced.

Findings show that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, arson, criminal damage, violence and intimidation against mosques has increased dramatically and smaller or isolated Muslim communities in places like Colchester, Bishop Stortford and Boston have become especially vulnerable.

Dr Jonathan Githens Mazer, co-Director of the EMRC said, “Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime are very real problems for British Muslims going about their everyday business. Through our research we have found that in smaller and more isolated mosques in many suburbs and market towns there is a feeling of being under siege. Some local councils who are made aware of the situation say to mosque officials, ‘we can see this is bad, why don’t you move the mosque?’”

The report also analyses the local activity by the British National Party, English Defence League and sister organisations. Anti-migrant and random attacks that have impacted on every poor urban community where most Muslims live have also been studied.

Dr Bob Lambert, co-Director of the EMRC said, ‘Evidence has also indicated that the galvanising report of the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry changed police response to hate crimes.  Whereas, because the war on terror is viewed as a security risk, Muslims do not have the support that is now widely accepted in other areas of hate crime.  Muslims are not requesting special treatment, just equal rights with their fellow citizens.

Professor John Esposito from Georgetown University, USA argues against the anti-Muslim rhetoric and has recently been commenting on the furore surrounding the negative campaigning against Park5l, the co called Ground Zero Mosque in Lower Manhattan.   He will be attending the launch of the new report and recognises the need to unite UK and US citizens in a common purpose.  He said,‘US and UK citizens should distinguish the faith of mainstream Muslims from the claims of a minority of extremists who justify their acts of violence and terrorism in the name of Islam. Blurring this distinction plays into the hands of preachers of hate (Muslim and non-Muslim) whose rhetoric incites and demonizes, alienates and marginalizes and leads to the adoption of domestic policies that undermine the civil liberties of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The report will be presented to community audiences around the UK, commencing with the following engagements:

  • Saturday, 27 November, 2010 – London Muslim Centre, Whitechapel, London
  • Sunday, 28 November, 2010 – Birmingham Central Mosque, Birmingham
  • Friday, 10 December, 2010 – Woodfarm Education Centre, Glasgow
Event Report: An African Answer to an African Problem

Event Report: An African Answer to an African Problem

On the 12th of November, a new documentary, ‘An African Answer’, featuring the reconciliation work done in Kenya of Imam Ashafa and Pastor James from Nigeria, was screened in London.  Those not familiar with the ‘The Imam and The Pastor’, will be struck by their story.  Emerging from the 1990s in Northern Nigeria after being in the frontlines of confrontations between Christians and Muslims which saw the killings of thousands in inter-religious warfare, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James are two of the most unlikeliest of allies, forging new grounds with their   Interfaith Mediation Center, responsible for mediating peace between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria’s Kaduna state.

 

Once bitter enemies, determined to kill each other (The pastor had his hand hacked off while defending his church against Muslims and the imam had his spiritual adviser and two of his brothers killed by Christian extremists), the two men are now embarking upon an extraordinary journey of healing and forgiveness.   Through talking to each other, they questioned the cost of the violence finding passages in the Bible and the Koran which showed common approaches of working together and more importantly started teaching about it to others, despite staying faithful to their religion.

 

In fact it is this demonstration of the importance of staying faithful to one’s own religious principles whilst reaching out to others of a different faith, is what has been the appeal of their story over the last decade or so.  This and the fact that their solution is a home grown solution that has not had any external influences, means they talk not only with credibility but with a refreshing sense of uniqueness.  This credibility is important especially for a continent that has suffered from being told how to solve its problems rather than being provided with a space and facilitation in order to solve the problem for itself.

 

An African Answer is a continuation of their story and how they have now transferred those skills outside of Nigeria, to helping the people in Kenya in the aftermath of the electoral violence  in 2007.  The video is a powerful testament to the fact that people in the developing world or the global south pretty much know how to solve their own problems if they can be provided a space to do so.

This is not just something that should be left to the politicians or the institutions but really no one can be ruled  out having a part in contributing to the solution of a conflict.

 

Imam Ashafa and Pastor James were hardly candidates for setting an example for their country or for peace building or unlikely to be described, as they are now, by the Archbishop of Canterbury as ‘a model for Christian Muslim relations’ there, yet today they are examples of how individuals can take bold steps to further understanding and dialogue between us to help heighten our peacemaking potential

 

 

The story of the Imam and the Pastor shows that strong ethical commitment in religious traditions can sharpen identity politics but more importantly can form the basis of inter and intra faith collaboration.  Thus religious pluralism can not only lead to an absence of violence mainly due to better understandings and interaction but it opens a space for discussion, dialogue and engagement.  In short, we must learn to listen closely to one another, not simply because it is polite, but because it is just possible that we might learn something important about ourselves, and build a better global village in the process.

 

 

Undertaking this offers an antidote to sectarianism and the polarisation of different faiths in multi-cultural societies . This will never be easy, but remains vitally important for creating the very ‘ideas and institutions that will allow us to live together as the global tribe we have become’.  This is perhaps the greatest lesson we can get from the story of the Imam and the Pastor.

 

 

 

 

 

News Item: An African Answer to Conflict

 

The UK launch of An African Answer will take place 8-12 November, in the presence of the film’s protagonists Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, the director Dr Alan Channer and producer Dr Imad Karam.

The UK premiere will be at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), London at 6.30pm on Tuesday 9 November. The event will be chaired by

Sir Richard Jolly, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations.

The first screening for the general public will be at Friends House, Euston, at 7pm on Friday 12 November.  Private screenings will also be held at St John’s College, Oxford University and Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institution, Rochester – where Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye will facilitate a workshop with inmates on reducing re-offending.

An African Answer depicts a dramatic bid by Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa – former militia leaders turned peace-makers from Nigeria – to bring reconciliation in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province, following communal killings. It is filmed in the district of Kenya worst hit by the post-election violence of early 2008, when around 1000 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced from their homes and farms.

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, describes it as ‘A very important filmWe need to learn, indeed, from Imam Ashafa and Pastor James’ says Annan, ‘and multiply in a thousand places their experiences of healing and reconciliation.’

An African Answer is produced by For the Love of Tomorrow Films (FLTfilms), the film-making division of UK charity Initiatives of Change. It follows an earlier, award-winning film about the two men, The Imam and the Pastor, shot in Nigeria and narrated by Rageh Omaar. This depicted the astonishing reconciliation between the former enemies, showing that it is possible for perpetrators of inter-religious violence to become instigators of peace.

‘After the global impact of The Imam and the Pastor, we wanted to make a film that depicts the peace-building methodology of Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa,’ says director Dr Alan Channer‘We were ready to follow them to any conflict in the world where they were invited to mediate. Then the post-election violence erupted in Kenya. We went to Kenya, they were invited back, and we followed them again. We found ourselves witness to Africans from one country working to help those in another, in a highly effective way.’

An African Answer had its Kenyan premiere in Nairobi in May 2010, in the same hotel in which Kofi Annan brokered the National Peace Accord. Chief Guest Francis Kimemia, Permanent Secretary for Internal Security, said ‘There are no permanent angels or permanent devils in any community. Peace needs to be deepened.This film is a resource of best practice…. It reflects the indomitable spirit of the Kenyan people.’

Looking back on the process, Imam Ashafa says: ‘This work is about helping people take charge of their own destiny. Solutions can come from the grass-roots. We touched a spirit of reconciliation that was there in the Kenyan people.’ 

Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye were awarded the inaugural Fondation Chirac Prize for Conflict Prevention in December 2009.

An African Answer (38m)

Narrator — Kathleen Openda-Mvati

Camera – Robinson Malemo & Tony Biwott­

Producer – Imad Karam

Director – Alan Channer

An African Answer is available on DVD from FLTfilms, price £15.99 (inc p&p)

Tel – 020 7798 6020   www.fltfilms.org.uk

For more information about the public premiere, please click here.

For more information on The Imam and the Pastor, please click here

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye will be available for media interviews during the day on 9 November, and on the afternoon of 12 November, as will the film’s director, Dr Alan Channer, and producer, Dr Imad Karam.  Please use the contacts below for further information.  Photographs of Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye and stills from the film are also available.

About FLTfilms

FLTfilms is an autonomous division of Initiatives of Change in the UK.  Over a period of almost 50 years, FLTfilms has established itself as a world-class documentary film unit specialising in films which foster reconciliation and peace-building.  Its name derives from a documentary film on Franco-German reconciliation, For the Love of Tomorrow.

FLTfilms is co-directed by Dr Alan Channer and Dr Imad Karam

http://www.fltfilms.org.uk/

About Initiatives of Change

Initiatives of Change is a global network of people from many cultures and nationalities who are committed to building trust across the world’s divides, starting with change in their own lives.

We run programmes for social and economic justice which encourage participants to find their own path to building trust in their community and country.  These initiatives are based on a commitment to absolute moral standards of honesty, purity of heart and motive, unselfishness in private and public life, love and forgiveness.  We are open to those of all faiths and none.

http://www.uk.iofc.org/about

About the RSA

For over 250 years the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  The RSA provides one of the biggest free events programmes in the UK, enabling leading thinkers and new voices to share ideas on key contemporary issues.  The RSA’s work is supported by an international Fellowship of 27,000 people and is based at a historic London house designed by Robert Adam in the early 1770s.

http://www.thersa.org/about-us

Background to An African Answer

More than 1,000 people were killed following disputed elections in Kenya at the end of 2007.  Suspicion over the validity of the poll and fears of a change in the balance of power between Kenya’s ethnic groups sparked widespread violence.  On 1January 2008, near the town of Eldoret, a mob attacked and set fire to a church where hundreds of people had taken refuge. Some 40 people were burned to death.

For media enquiries please contact:

Michael Smith (07986 179776)

mike.smith@uk.iofc.org

Don de Silva (07904 122248)

dondes@uk.iofc.org

General enquiries

020 7798 6000

reception@london.iofc.org

Event Report:One Day International Conference: Moving Beyond the Rhetoric

Event Report:One Day International Conference: Moving Beyond the Rhetoric

he Cordoba Foundation along with Forward Thinking and  Global Peace and Unity organised a one day conference entitled ‘Moving Beyond the Rhetoric: Increasing Trust between Faiths, Beliefs, Cultures and Communities’ which brought together academics, faith leaders, practitioners and activists to share their experiences, knowledge and expertise on building bridges between communities in the context of promoting understanding and dialogue.

 

The aim of the conference was to:

 

* highlight problems cause by fear and mistrust of different faiths, beliefs, cultures and communities

 

* encourage and highlight advantages of increasing trust, respect and understanding

 

* promote best practice between stakeholders

 

* provide a space for contentious issues to be discussed

 

Panel discussions were divided into the following geographical regions:

 

* UK

 

* USA and Europe

 

* Africa

 

* Asia

 

*The Middle East

 

Panellists included:

* Pastor Bob Roberts (USA)

* Mustapha bargouti (Palestine)

* Daniel Levy (USA / Israel)

* Dr Ram Puniyani (India)

* Shams Deen (NIgeria)

* Dr Salauddin Atbani (Sudan0

* Prof Tariq Ramadan (UK)

* Anas Altikriti (UK)

* Ebrahim Rasool (RSA)

* John Ging

 

The conclusions of the conference included sharing ideas of best practice and emphasising the need for local grassroots initiatives to be supported and encouraged in order to ensure trust between communities is built.

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