The Peace Corps

proponents of the principle of Dialogue in conflict Mediation.

The visit of the Peace Corps to British Columbia, Canada.
Imam Muhammad Ashafa & Pastor James Wuye from Nigeria.

In the 1990’s, Imam Muhammad Ashafa, and Reverend James Wuye led opposing armed militias that were dedicated to defending their respective communities, leading to an outbreak of violence in Kaduna, northern Nigeria. Kaduna has until fairly recently (the last four years), been the hotbed of ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria. It is estimated that in the last decade, over 150,000 lives have been lost due to such conflicts in Nigeria.

Imam Ashafa and Pastor James were bitter rivals and each tried to have the other killed. In pitched battles, Pastor James lost his hand, and Imam Ashafa’s spiritual mentor and two close relatives were killed. After nearly a decade of continued violence, a chance meeting happened in 1995 at a meeting at the Kaduna State Government House. Following the meeting, a mutual friend of the two brought them together, and they amazingly discovered that they shared a common perspective on the problems facing their country.

As a result of that meeting, they have now become joint directors of an Inter-Faith Mediation Centre in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria. Imam Ashafa and Pastor James are undertaking bold initiatives to promote co-operation and to resolve conflicts as they arise. They address the challenge of building peace by using a faith-based approach that promotes acceptance of differences in religion, culture, gender and other social differences through the use of non-violent problem solving methods.
Through the story of these men, transformation has begun in Nigeria and their story and experiences are helping rebuild communities torn apart by conflict all over the world. The documentary film,”The Imam and the Pastor” produced by FLTfilms – For the Love of Tomorrow, premiered at the United Nations in New York and is helping spread their message of peace-building.

In addition to working with many groups throughout Africa, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James have spoken to groups in places such as Croatia, Northern Ireland and among Native Americans in the United States.
Link International Ministries initiated their invitation and partnered together with Initiatives of Change (Canada) to bring the Imam and the Pastor to British Columbia from January 11 to February 6, 2008. Because peace and reconciliation are issues of global importance, we felt we could learn much from these men and the innovative approaches they have taken to peace-building.

During a recent interview, while visiting with us, Imam Ashafa said, “We have a different concept of God, of salvation and of society, without compromising our own Worldview. We still agree we can live together.” Although both men disagree on some issues, Wuye and Ashafa agree on one thing: the essential teachings of their religions have no room for hate. Wuye said he was challenged by his own spiritual leaders to follow the example of Jesus Christ and to love his enemies. Ashafa, on the same love premise said, “One of the problems in Islam today is that there is no ultimate authority to correct self-appointed clerics from spreading teachings that are counter to the teachings of the Qur’an and other Islamic teachings.” He goes on to say, “Islamic councils with the authority to denounce teachings which run counter to Islam are needed.” As for Christians, Pastor James Wuye said they simply need to follow the example of Christ Jesus.

Concluding the interview, Wuye said, “Canada is a good example of a country in which people of various faiths and nations can get along. This is what I think Canada stands for, diversity. Within diversity lies the strength of the people of Canada.”

When I initiated the invitation of these men to Canada, I felt Canada and the Canadian Mosaic would truly learn from Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye. There are a lot of similarities between Canada and Nigeria. Nigeria is a Mosaic with over five hundred and forty nine nations, amalgamated as a nation. Canada, although not amalgamated, nonetheless, is a Mosaic where anyone, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or language could come, settle and call it home. That was the Nigeria I know, having Ibo parents, having been born and schooled in Jos and speaking the Hausa language fluently. Most of my friends were and still are Hausas, Fulanis, Yorubas, Ijaws, Ibibios, Ibos and Efiks, etc. Our children, born here in Canada, have embraced the same Mosaic principles my wife and I grew up with in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the principle is ideally spoken of but only subtly practiced in various sectors of the Canadian society. This subtlety is beginning to manifest in ethic rival gangs, religiously motivated hatred, and racial discriminatory comments even in the workplace.

While here, these men were invited to Trinity Western University, Langley, The city of Richmond’s Intercultural Advisory Committee, The Justice Institute of British Columbia, Richmond Secondary School, the Nigeria Canada Development Association of British Columbia, Peacemakers Trust in partnership with the University of Victoria Institute for Dispute Resolution, and had an audience with the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism and Immigration, Province of British Columbia, Hon. Dave S. Hayer.

The principle Ashafa and Wuye expounded upon was dialogue, dialogue, and dialogue. According to them regardless of the type of conflict you are mediating, weather inter or intra-mediation, the principle of dialogue should be applied. They agree that dictatorship leads to destruction, debate will lead to division, and only dialogue will lead to development of humanity. They also agreed that the idea of tolerance connotes superiority over another. But acceptance connotes equality of each other regardless of race, religion or language and therefore must be respected.

Report written by;

Paul Ndukwe (Rev.)