The Pastor and the Imam

November 13, 2009

All of us at the Public Conversations Project were delighted to hear of the Chirac Foundation's recent 2009 award of its first-ever Prize for the Prevention of Conflicts to Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammed Ashafa, of Kaduna, Nigeria.  The Pastor and the Imam, as they are known, were honored for the work of their Interfaith Mediation Center toward interfaith understanding and coexistence in Nigeria.  In May, 2009, the Pastor and the Imam visited the Public Conversations Project and we got an opportunity to exchange ideas about interfaith work.

The Chirac Foundation was created by former French President Jacques Chirac to act in the service of peace and in October, 2009 awarded this first-ever Prize for the Prevention of Conflicts.  The Pastor and the Imam were originally the heads of religious militias, who later became partners and advocates of interfaith mediation and dialogue.  Together in 1995 they created the Interfaith Mediation Center in Kaduna State.  The Interfaith Mediation Center uses interfaith teams to resolve conflicts in their country, which has seen about 10,000 deaths over the past decade, due to religious conflict.  They have presented trainings in schools, universities and community settings, focusing on work with women, youth, as well as religious and political leaders.  Their work is documented in the United States Institute of Peace-funded film: The Imam and the Pastor.

Their unique approach emphasizes the role of religion as a factor for rapprochement and reconciliation.  During my trip to Nigeria earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend a youth training and was deeply impressed with the passion and commitment they bring to their work.  Their efforts have led to easing tensions related to religious clashes in several Nigerian cities over the past decade.  These efforts resulted in their being awarded the 2005 Peace Prize of Bremen. The Public Conversations Project looks forward to continuing our relationship with the Chirac Foundation's Prize winners.

What do you think about the Imam and the Pastor's work?  Do you know about a group that should be considered for the 2010 Prize for the Prevention of Conflicts?


Dave Joseph


Vice President, Program
Public Conversations Project

November 13, 2009