Enemies to peacemakers: Nigerian pastor and imam discuss faith

Imam and pastor
Imam Muhammad Ashafa, left, and Pastor James Wuye at MPR in St. Paul Thursday. They speak this weekend at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News

A Nigerian Christian pastor and a Muslim imam — both fundamentalists in their faiths and once sworn enemies — are now working to restore peace and respect across the religious divide.

Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa work together at the Interfaith Mediation Center in Nigeria. They've come a long way after a past of training their followers to hate and kill the opposing faith.

They are in Minnesota for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and joined MPR News' Tom Crann to talk about their friendship.

"The same energy that we use to promote division we are using it now constructively," Wuye said.

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Nigeria is home to 170 million people on the west coast of Africa, with a long-divided population of Muslims and Christians.

Wuye and Ashafa told the story of their turning points that led to their friendship:

They have their disagreements, but ultimately co-exist under a 'do-no-harm' belief:

From Ashafa:

Today our world is possessed by greed, self-centeredness. It is across faith. Religion is about positivity... If anything becomes negative, then it's not of God. It's not divine because God loves his creations. Any act you do that promote hate, pains and tears on the creations of God — human, animals, environment — you destroy them then you are destroying God. God is not happy with you. There can be no justification for... [causing] pains and tears into any other person or group of people around the world. These are what we promote. As long as your truth does not cause pains and tears to the other, hold onto your truth. But the moment your truth start causing pains and tears to other, it's no more the truth. It's something else and the society must look inward to say, 'How do we stop that?'