Violent clashes, peaceful coexistence

Nigeria is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims. Violent clashes frequently occur in Northern Nigeria, where members of both faiths reside in close proximity. These violent outbursts, often in reaction to international events, such as the Dutch cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed, have cost thousands of lives. James Wuye, a Christian pastor and Imam Mohammed Ashafa, a Muslim cleric, are working together to end this climate of tension. They believe that the only way religious violence can be reduced in Nigeria is by having leaders of each faith promote religious teachings of peace and non-violence.

Their organization, the Interfaith Mediation Center of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum, deals with the psychology of religious violence and addresses its causes and effects. Pastor Wuye and Ashafa are influencing schools, houses of worship, and community centers to prevent violence and intervene when conflicts erupt. Their education and media outreach strategies have afforded them unprecedented, widespread support and legitimacy for their efforts to promote peaceful coexistence. Their early-warning mechanism, developed in 1996, helps communities identify inflammatory situations and provides the means to reduce tensions. For instance, pastor Ashafa and Wuye managed to defuse potential violence surrounding the 2006 Dutch cartoon fiasco, which inflamed many communities around the world.

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