Friday, July 5, 2019

Imam Dr Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor Dr James Wuye

New Zealand visit – 17 to 28 August 2019

Heir of thirteen generations of Muslim clerics, Muhammad Nurayn Ashafa grew up deeply suspicious of all things Western and Christian. As a young man he became an Imam, joining a fanatical group committed to Islamizing the north of Nigeria. Ashafa became its leader and also Secretary General of the Muslim Youth Councils which incited great violence in northern Nigeria, and resulted in Christians creating the Youth Christian Association of Nigeria, led by Pastor Wuye.

Pastor James Movel Wuye, an Assemblies of God Pastor, was the son of a soldier. In the 1980s and 1990s he was involved in militant Christian activities and for 8 years served as Secretary General of the Kaduna State chapter of the Youth Christian Association of Nigeria. He says his “hatred for the Muslims had no limits”. He lost his right arm during one of the battles against Ashafa’s group, increasing his vengeance and deep hatred for Muslims in general and Ashafa in particular.

Ashafa also experienced loss at the hands of Pastor Wuye. Two cousins and Ashafa’s spiritual mentor died. For years, both Ashafa and Wuye vowed to avenge the deaths and injuries of their loved ones by killing each other. A chance meeting in 1995 brought the two together and through intermediaries and months of soul searching, both decided to lay down their arms and work together to end the violence plaguing their country. The Interfaith Mediation Center of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum was formed in Kaduna soon after.

Ashafa and Wuye’s collective work in peace building began in 1997. It has earned them numerous accolades including the Peace Activist Award of the Tanenbaum Center of Interreligious Understanding, New York; Honorary Doctorate degrees from Glasgow University, UK, and Kolkata, India; a Heroes of Peace Award from Burundi; the Search for Common Ground on Interfaith Cooperation Award, Washington DC, USA; the Bremen Peace Award from the Threshold Foundation on interreligious understanding, Germany and the inaugural Foundation Chirac award for Conflict Prevention, presented to them by former President Jacques Chirac at the Sorbonne in Paris.

 Two films have been made of their work. They gave a Ted talk in Berlin in 2016 and spoke at the Nobel Peace Prize awards a year earlier.

To find out more about their visit to NZ please listen to their interview on RNZ or check out the Stuff Article.

RNZ Interview

Stuff Article