Muhammad Ashafa is the son of an Islamic scholar from a long line of Muslim clerics dating back 13 generations. He grew up in a conservative family that espoused Islamic socio-cultural values and held deep suspicion for all things Western and Christian. As the eldest son, he followed the family vocation and became an Imam.
To promote his family tradition of Islamic custodianship, Ashafa joined and became the leader of a fanatical Islamic group committed to completely Islamizing the North and chasing away all non-Muslims from the region. He was also Secretary General of the Muslim Youth Councils (MYCs) which incited great violence in the North and resulted in the Christians creating their own counter organization, the Youth Christian Association of Nigeria (YCAN), led by Pastor James Wuye.
In one of the violent clashes between MYC and YCAN, two cousins and Ashafa’s spiritual mentor died. But a chance meeting between Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye in 1995 and the former’s extension of the olive branch to the latter led to the formation of the awardwinnig Interfaith Mediation Center of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum, a religious grassroots organization that, with over 10.000 members, reaches into the militias and trains the country’s youth, women and leaders to become civic peace activists.
Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye are the subject of a documentary The Imam and the Pastor, a moving story of forgiveness and a case-study of a successful grass-roots initiative to rebuild communities torn apart by conflict.
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