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.
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:
* USA and Europe
*The Middle East
* 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.
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) sponsored and facilitated the World Muslim Leadership Forum co-hosted by Faith Regen Foundation and ASLI (Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute) and chaired by H.E Shaukat Aziz, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The forum was designed to bring together key thinkers and practitioners around a table to share ideas on the following subject
1) Enhancing the relationship between the West and Muslims – Strengthening Ties and Promoting Dialogue
2) How to promote sustainable development in Muslim Societies
3) Islamic Finance
The CEO of TCF was also a panellist on the discussions regarding ‘Enhancing Relationships between the West and Muslims’
Giving the key note address, ‘Bridging the Muslim and Western World for Peace and Development’, HRH Raza Shah, Crown Prince of Perak said that ‘organised dialogue between the two sides will need to focus on what needs to be made right on both sides’.
The foreign minister of Malaysia also participated at the conference which was launched at the House of Lords.
Facilitated by The Cordoba Foundation, a roundtable discussion was held on the 1st of October exploring the role of religious institutions in peace building in conflict affected Sri Lanka.
Led by Dr S.H Hasbullah, a prominent academic from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, the discussion centred around the role of the Mosque Federation in Kathankudy, a town in Eastern Sri Lanka, which as a consequence of the conflict, had to take a leadership role at the local level to successfully address issues of survival of the community. In mapping the part played by the organisation, the discussion centered around the future relevance for roles played by such religious institutions in a post conflict Sri Lanka. The presentation by Dr Hasbullah built on a long period investigation on the aspect of religion and conflict in eastern Sri Lanka undertaken by the University of Edinbugh and SOAS which was presented at the Royal Geographic Society.
In attendance at the discussions were representatives from the Sri Lankan High Commission and the office of the President of Sri Lanka.
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) rejects utterly libellous allegations made against it by co-director of the Quilliam Foundation Maajid Nawaz. On Sunday 8 August on the Sky News Sunday Live programme, Nawaz falsely claimed that “The Cordoba Foundation, they in Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall, hosted the Al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki”.
This accusation is baseless, since TCF has at no time organised or hosted any event at the Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall. Nawaz is basing this accusation on a similar report issued by the Centre for Social Cohesion in 2009, which TCF refuted in a statement on 13 November 2009.
It is utterly absurd for Nawaz to state that TCF had hosted Al-Awlaki given that Al-Awlaki has attacked and declared un-Islamic (Haram or Kufr) a number of initiatives and projects which TCF either run or fully support that encourage wider engagement of young Muslims with British and European politics and the media.
This accusation by Nawaz is illustrative of the lack of professionalism, accuracy, sound academic research and even truth, demonstrated by him and the Quilliam Foundation.
Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation said “Nawaz’s baseless claim exposes the Quilliam Foundation’s amateurish and flawed working methods for what they are: cheap and simple, for the purposes of achieving mudslinging tabloid notoriety. It is surprising that any political party, organisation or individual should continue to accord such organisations credibility or respect.”
TCF demands Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation retract the accusation forthwith. Failing to do so will compel TCF to seek legal council.
The Cordoba Foundation continues to pursue its aims and objectives through actual projects, real initiatives and true engagement with those who matter for the future of our country.
Michael Henderson is the first to admit that his work has no academic basis. Rather he prefers to ‘tell stories’. The difference though is that his stories are based on hands-on experience of real life men and women working to build bridges between people of differing colours, cultures and languages.
mh 5.jpgSo on the 17th of August as part of The Cordoba Seminar series in the impressive settings of St Ethelburgas Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, he shared his stories ‘as a privilege of highlighting the readiness of men and women to forgive and ask for forgiveness’.
mh 3.jpgFrom Nigeria, to Lebanon, to Israel, India and Northern Ireland, Michael criss crossed the countries sharing the stories of individuals taking responsibility to move beyond victimhood, to create safe spaces in the purposes of forging alliances. In his words, Michael says ‘ The building of relationships of trust is a priority and now more than ever, we need reconciliation and forgiveness’.
Michael highlights 6 key steps which he has found is essential in the process of reconciliation and forgiveness and which he has found are backed up by his stories:
The concept of ‘a Clash or an Alliance?’
The need to ‘Reach out to the “Other”’
The need to ‘Move beyond Victimhood’
The need to ‘take Responsibility’
The concept of ‘Creating a Safe Space’
The need to ‘Acknowledge the Past’
mh 1.jpgThese are not mutually exclusive according to Michael but are systematic milestones that need to be achieved if true reconciliation is the end goal.
During the Holy Month of Ramadan, where forgiveness and mercy from two key components, Michael’s speech was even more poignant, a factor reiterated by the chair of the event, Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation
As he concluded his speech Michael quotes Rajmohan Ghandi (the grandson of Mhatama Ghandi) who says that the ‘call for reconciliation is in the end a call for sanity’.
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) welcomes the launch of the Inspired by Muhammad Campaign, featuring ordinary Muslim professionals who contribute positively to Britain’s prosperity whilst being inspired by the role played by Islam and its final Messenger, Muhammad in their lives. This Campaign comes on the back of the findings of a YouGov poll published this week, highlighting misconceptions held by large sections of the British public linking Islam with terrorism, repressing women, among other things.
The Chief Executive of TCF Anas Altikriti said ‘the YouGov findings highlight a gap in perceptions about what people think about British Muslims and what they really are. Challenging this publicly in the media is a welcome-sign since as the poll suggested; most of the information obtained by the public on Islam was from the mainstream media. That is why we support the Campaign’
TCF welcomes adverts about the campaign placed across the city in tube stations, bus stops, bill boards, and on London taxis which highlight Prophet Muhammad’s universal teachings about caring for the environment, gender equality, and social justice.
For more information, please click here
Notes to editors
- For further information, please contact Amjad Saleem, Head of Communications on 020 89913372 or email@example.com
This documentary will reveal how and why public opinion and engagement with the political process in the United Kingdom has changed with more and more people becoming disengaged and apathethic.
The documentary will ask the question: ‘How much are Muslims and Ethnic Minorities in Britain contributing to the rise of the BNP?’
Designed to be launched on the night before the election, the documentary aims to inspire action and get people involved where they can have a voice and CAN tip the scales thereby ensuring that the sacrifices that our elders undertook to make a place for us in society is not undone.
Produced by: Tre Azam
‘We owe it to our elders, our children and ourselves to do what we can to have more of a say in the country we love and live in’
Directed by: Abid Mahi
‘People all over the world to this day are dying for the right to vote and the right to a fair and democratic society. Every year, hundreds and thousands of people including Muslim Brits choose not to vote in local and general elections, yet get angered and shocked with the rise of groups such as the BNP’
Executive Producers: The Cordoba Foundation
‘We can not be passive observers as policies and futures are shaped. Voting is one of the most important means of being at the heart of society’ (Anas Altikriti, CEO)
The documentary will be aired on 5th May 2010 at 8pm on Islam Channel (Sky 813)
For more information, please click here
The Cordoba Foundation is pleased to announce that its CEO Anas Altikriti has been selected in the inaugural issue of the Muslim Power List 2010
Commenting on his selection, Anas said ‘It is humbling to be included in such a diverse list of unique and talented individuals that are a reflection of the best that the British Muslim Community can offer. To be nominated by members of the public is an honour’
The Muslim Power List for the United Kingdom has been launched this year to demonstrate the important contribution that Britain’s Muslim community makes to the social, financial and spiritual prosperity of the UK.
For further information, please contact the Muslim Power List