Nigerian imam calls for ‘a hate-free, greed-free’ African continent

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New film of an African answer given its UK public launch in London

(left) talks to Abdurahman Sharif, Co-ordinator, Muslim Charities Forum, at the public London launch of the film (Photo: Louise Jefferson)|link=none|align=left|width=250|height=159]Urging his ‘brothers and sisters’ in the African Diaspora around the world to serve their continent, Imam Muhammad Ashafa from Kaduna in northern Nigeria, made a thoughtful and impassioned plea for them to help create ‘a hate-free, greed-free’ continent. Their acquired knowledge and skills were essential for the future of Africa, he said.

He was speaking at the UK public launch of a new documentary film An African Answer. Ashafa and his compatriot, Pastor James Wuye, founders of the Christian-Muslim Interfaith Mediation Pastor James Wuye talks with member of the audience (Photo: Louise Jefferson)Centre in Kaduna, addressed an audience of 200 people at the Quaker Friends Meeting House in Euston, London, on 12 November.

The 39-minute fly-on-the-wall documentary film depicts their mediation work between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin people of Rift Valley province in Kenya, who had been involved in ethnic clashes in 2008 leaving hundreds dead.

To say that it is remarkable is an understatement,’ commented the BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge, chairing the evening. ‘There is nothing sentimental about that film. It is absolutely raw.’ Wooldridge had reported the BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mike Wooldridge, chairing (Photo: Louise Jefferson)violent aftermath of the December 2007 elections. ’I too was there. I saw the victims, the violence and the displacement and I saw the faces of anger and of fear.’

Referring to Ashafa and Wuye’s own story, captured in the film The Imam and the Pastor, Wooldridge said: ‘Their personal reconciliation is becoming such an example to people caught up in conflict in other parts of the world.’ Maybe An African Answer will become the African answer, he commented.

The new film shows how the two Nigerian peacemakers encourage the Kikuju and the Kalenjin people of Burnt Forest in the Kenya Rift Valley, focus of the worst violence, to form a joint peace committee. The trust eventually built between the two groups leads them to pool their resources in running a joint market stall instead of two separate ones.

Journalist Francesca Holloway interviews Pastor James Wuye (Photo: Louise Jefferson)Introducing the film, its British director Dr Alan Channer of FLTfilms said that, just after its launch in Nairobi earlier this year, a Maasai youth had been in tears as he returned a goat that he had stolen from a Kikuyu family, influenced by the message of the Nigerians.

Pastor Wuye revealed that they were now developing a ‘road map for peace’ in the city of Jos, capital of Plateau State in Nigeria and scene of violent clashes earlier this year. They hoped to create ‘a celebration of peace’ by the end of this year, he said, just as they have in their own northern state of Kaduna. The two peacemakers claim that their mediation work in Kaduna has contributed towards peace there for the last eight years.

Imam Muhammed Ashafa talks with film producter Dr Imad Karam and his wife Amira (Photo: Louise Jefferson)Asked during questions from the audience what Africans abroad could do, Pastor Wuye said they could help to spread the message of An African Answer by funding its distribution across the continent. ‘We want to take the DVD around Africa,’ he said. ‘Our primary aim is to saturate Kenya.’ He and Ashafa plan to return there in January. In doing so, they are continuing to respond to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s appeal, reported in the film, for grassroots reconciliation in villages across Kenya.

Asked if it was necessary to be religious to do their kind of reconciliation work, Pastor Wuye responded: ‘We are first and foremost human beings. We should compete in [living] the values of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.’ Imam Ashafa said it was necessary to challenge materialism and to know when ‘enough is enough’.

Audience at AAA launch Friends Meeting House (Photo: Chetan Halai)This is a very important moment for the continent of Africa,’ Ashafa said. ‘Africans and only Africans can truly find solutions to our continent.’ Western countries such as Britain could help to ‘create a new history’ by supporting Africans in making ‘the space and goodwill’ for change and by supporting ‘a bottom-up approach, to help people to create a bridge across divided communities. Africans can indeed take their destiny in their hands.’

The challenging thought, concluded Wooldridge, lay in ‘personal transformation as the basis for a transformation in society.’

Download Francesca Holloway's review of An African Answer on The Times website (PDF)