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11 July, 2008

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Joan Lang, hosted a Civic Reception at The Town Hall for Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye, to share their remarkable personal experiences of reconciliation and conflict resolution in Nigeria.

Lord Mayor of Liverpool with Nigerians
The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Joan Lang, with Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa during their visit to the city

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Joan Lang, hosted a Civic Reception at The Town Hall for Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye, to share their remarkable personal experiences of reconciliation and conflict resolution in Nigeria. Among those attending were Members of the Liverpool City Council, Muslim and Christian leaders and other faith representatives, including the President and the Secretary of the Merseyside Council of Faiths and the Chair of the Liverpool Muslim Society. Business, professional, academic and community representatives, including leaders of the Liverpool Nigerian Association, took part. The Lord Mayor who had seen a preview of the film said, in welcoming them, that she had been ‘bowled over by their faith. It was a breath of fresh air’. She was followed by Councillor Barbara Mace, who spoke on behalf of the Leader of the Council. She said how in the past Liverpool had experienced a ‘tremendous upheaval’ between people of different faiths and cultures and that ‘now there was a common goal – striving for peace and understanding. That is why it is so appropriate that this film is shown here, where many people are working tirelessly for peace and reconciliation’, she concluded. Speaking in response, the two men underlined how they had ‘to take risks’ and reach out ‘for the sake of our children and future generations’. One senior cleric said afterwards what had had moved him most was the Imam saying, ‘I would rather die myself, rather than let my friend (The Pastor) be killed.’ Many spoke afterwards of the ‘inspiration’ of what they had heard. Some expressed the wish to use the DVD of the film to initiate dialogue. The day before The Town Hall event the Nigerian guests were received by the Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, Professor Gerald Pillay, and he joined them for a showing of their film at the University’s Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies, which had been arranged by the Director, Dr. Neil Ferguson. It was attended by both university and sixth form students and other invited guests, followed by lively discussions, which a number of the students are keen to follow up. Desmond Tutu is expected next June to formally open the Centre. The Imam also led the Friday prayers and gave the address at the main Liverpool mosque. Gerald Henderson

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