Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reflections about The Pastor and The Imam

The movie about the Pastor James Wuye and  and the Imam Muhammad Ashafa in Nigeria was powerful.

Not only did it provide us with a concrete example of religious peacemaking, it also served to show us their methodology. One of the most important things I gathered from the movie (and there were a lot) was that effective religious peacemaking has to come from from the grassroots: local leaders and citizens coming together and spreading the idea. Though peace can be made by politicos or larger religious leaders, those pacts do nothing to bring together ordinary people who see another as an enemy.

Almost everyone in class saw the movie, but here a simplification of the process (how I saw it): bring community together -> separate different groups -> have each group explain their claims on why the "other" is bad -> have each group produce a list of "likes" and "dislikes" of the other group -> bring groups together and go over "likes" and "dislikes" -> do more community building through rituals and prayer. Prayer and ritual are used throughout this initial process along with scriptural readings of peace from the religions in conflict..

As I said, I am simplifying what I saw. However, demonstrated throughout the video, this process is extremely effective. It gives participants time to "vent" in order to get the anger out, and become educated on the other group's viewpoints. It also serve to re-humanize a marginalized group, which is important on many different levels; especially a moral one. In effect, the strategies used by the duo knock down physical as well as psychological barriers.

It was truly amazing to see individuals who once hated each-other, including the pastor and the imam, become changed and become committed to improving their communities. With so many cultures in the world being focused on community rather than the individual, re-humanizing the "others" puts the focus back on solving problems in a community rather than on hate.

I remember the pastor using the simile that him and the imam are like a married couple; if they divorce, their children will suffer. Case in point, the world needs more couples like this.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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