and Pastor’ Film Premiered in UK Parliament
06 December 2006
John Battle MP, the UK
Prime Minister’s envoy to the faith communities hosted the UK premiere
of the documentary film ‘The Imam and the Pastor’ in the House of
Commons before an invited audience which included MPs and Peers on
Tuesday 6th December. The Imam and Pastor in question, Muhammad Ashafa
and James Wuye, their flowing Nigerian robes contrasting with the sober
wood panelling and flock wallpaper of the Parliamentary Committee Room,
answered questions after the film.
The reason for the interest in their
story is that they both led opposing armed gangs in defence of their
communities in the early ‘90s when economic difficulties caused ethnic
and religious conflict in their northern Nigerian city of Kaduna.
Pastor James lost his right hand in one of those battles, and Imam
Ashafa’s beloved spiritual mentor and two of his relatives were killed.
Now the two men are co-directors of the Interfaith Mediation Centre in
Kaduna… How they got from one position to the other, is the question
the film sets out to answer.
After the film, Imam Ashafa asked for a
moment’s silence in memory of David Channer who had the original
inspiration for the film, but who passed away in September.
John Battle said the
contrasting images in the film - of mass graves and of joyful dancing
at a formal reconciliation ceremony organised by the two men - would
stay with him. ‘We are all asked to live in the same place’, he said.
‘Our neighbours are those who are given to us to build community with.
This film says “It can be done”! This is a very special story that
needs to reach every corner of all our communities.’
Imam Ashafa said, ‘Religion is a candle
to light the house or to burn down the house. It is an energy, and like
nuclear energy, it can be used for good or destructive purposes. Our
task is to see religion used for positive purposes.’ Pastor James said,
‘Nigeria is a very religious country. The conflict entrepreneurs use
faith as the medium to inspire violence. We’re using faith to
In the 24 hours since they arrived, they
were interviewed on three BBC World Service radio programmes and Radio
4’s Today Programme, with interviews to come on BBC Five Live, Islam
Channel, Channel S, Emel Magazine and numerous others.
Following the parliamentary launch, Imam
Ashafa and Pastor James went to Liverpool for screenings at the Town
Hall hosted by the Lord Mayor and at Liverpool Hope University.
Public Screening of 'The Imam and the Pastor' in UK
9 December 2006
The film had its first
public screening on December 9 before an audience of nearly 300 people
in the Friends House, one of London's main venues for political and
social meetings. After the film, Imam
Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye answered questions, several from
people with pain in their hearts.
A man of Pakistani origin was reacting
to a recent speech of the Prime Minister 'demanding that British
Muslims live by "our values" without defining those values'. Ashafa
responded, 'We all have lessons to learn from others to give us a
magnanimous heart. We need to create space to understand each other
better. Diversity is a source of strength and not a threat.'
In answer to a comment from a
Palestinian woman on the dangers of fundamentalism, Ashafa said,
'Religion is a positive tool, but there are texts that can be used to
incite people to genocide. Our story is about moving from the vicious
cycle to the virtuous cycle.' James added, 'The crisis in the Middle
East has a great impact on Africa and Nigeria. We are very passionate
about our religions. Be careful in the global north what you say: due
to the Danish cartoons controversy, more people died in Nigeria than
A Somali woman said, 'In Somalia,
everyone is Muslim, but they are divided by clan and tribalism. People
don't communicate.' Again Ashafa turned the responsibility back on the
questioner. 'The challenge in Somalia is very great, but you are the
one who can bring change! Intolerance leads to hate, to suppression, to
oppression, to demonisation, to war, to genocide. We generalise the
failure of one person to a whole community. To remove the seed of
genocide, deal with stereotypes and prejudices.'
To another question about how they deal
with theological differences, Ashafa replied, 'Differences arise out of
ignorance of own tradition and of the other traditions. We studied our
scriptures together and found 70 values in common and 25 areas of
disagreement on core values that cannot be compromised. We reject the
word tolerance because of its negative connotations. What is
needed is acceptance of the other for what he is.'
Another Palestinian asked how, if they
had a 'wound' which is continuously bleeding, could they still do what
they are doing? James acknowledged that it was a 'Herculean' task. His
severed hand was no longer bleeding but he has to find someone to help
him perform even simple tasks. 'But I am still bleeding as I see
victims and even widows around me. It took me three years to get over
myself. I challenge you to follow your heart and find a space in it for
the others. Forgiveness is the weapon of the courageous, and the enemy
will become your bosom friend and protector, because you will give him
what he cannot give.'
Congratulating the two
men and the film production team, Rev Ben Enwuchola, Anglican Chaplain
to the Nigerian Community in the UK said, 'I am proud that something
good is coming out of Nigeria and going out to entire world'. Prof
Dawud Noibi, President of the Council for Nigerian Muslim
Organisations, added, 'Crisis has been transformed into reconciliation.
It is a small starting point for a greater reconciliation.'
The Chair, James Hore-Ruthven,
concluded, 'Some people call Africa a "problem continent". Frank
Buchman, who founded Initiatives of Change, held a lifelong vision that
it was from Africa that answers to the world's needs would come. You
are pioneers of the new statesmanship which is needed for this century.
Thank you for coming to give us something - particularly as we used to
be your colonial masters!'