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11 July, 2008
John Battle MP with Nigerians

John Battle MP, the UK Prime Minister’s envoy to the faith communities hosted the UK premiere of the documentary film ‘The Imam and the Pastor’ in the House of Commons, London.

John Battle MP, the UK Prime Minister’s envoy to the faith communities hosted the UK premiere of the documentary film ‘The Imam and the Pastor’ in the House of Commons before an invited audience which included MPs and Peers on Tuesday 6th December. The Imam and Pastor in question, Muhammad Ashafa and James Wuye, their flowing Nigerian robes contrasting with the sober wood panelling and flock wallpaper of the Parliamentary Committee Room, answered questions after the film.

The reason for the interest in their story is that they both led opposing armed gangs in defence of their communities in the early ‘90s when economic difficulties caused ethnic and religious conflict in their northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. Pastor James lost his right hand in one of those battles, and Imam Ashafa’s beloved spiritual mentor and two of his relatives were killed. Now the two men are co-directors of the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Kaduna… How they got from one position to the other, is the question the film sets out to answer.

After the film, Imam Ashafa asked for a moment’s silence in memory of David Channer who had the original inspiration for the film, but who passed away in September.

Imam and Pastor outside UK Parliament

In the film ‘The Imam and the Pastor,’ premiered in the House of Commons, Pastor James says, ‘We are like a husband and wife that must not divorce – for the sake of our children: the global community, Nigeria and the Muslims and Christians’. Pastor James says of his comrade and former enemy, ‘I love him because I was taught to love my neighbour like I love myself.’

John Battle said the contrasting images in the film - of mass graves and of joyful dancing at a formal reconciliation ceremony organised by the two men - would stay with him. ‘We are all asked to live in the same place’, he said. ‘Our neighbours are those who are given to us to build community with. This film says “It can be done”! This is a very special story that needs to reach every corner of all our communities.’

Imam Ashafa said, ‘Religion is a candle to light the house or to burn down the house. It is an energy, and like nuclear energy, it can be used for good or destructive purposes. Our task is to see religion used for positive purposes.’ Pastor James said, ‘Nigeria is a very religious country. The conflict entrepreneurs use faith as the medium to inspire violence. We’re using faith to de-programme violence.’

In the 24 hours since they arrived, they were interviewed on three BBC World Service radio programmes and Radio 4’s Today Programme, with interviews to come on BBC Five Live, Islam Channel, Channel S, Emel Magazine and numerous others.

Following the parliamentary launch, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James went to Liverpool for screenings at the Town Hall hosted by the Lord Mayor and at Liverpool Hope University.

The world public premiere of ‘The Imam and the Pastor’ will be on Saturday 9 December at 7pm (admission free) at Friends House, opposite Euston Station (173 Euston Road, Euston, London NW1 2BJ) hosted by the Nigerian High Commission and Initiatives of Change.

On Tuesday, Most Revd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, meets the two Nigerians. He says ‘Imam Ashafa and Pastor James, and the film that captures their honest and inspiring story, offer a message full of hope for those with hate in their hearts, and for everyone who believes in the loving potential of all human beings. They are a model for Muslim-Christian and inter-faith relations in Britain and abroad.’

The film is produced and directed by Alan Channer and Associate Producer Imad Karam of For the Love of Tomorrow Films (FLTfilms), a division of Initiatives of Change. Copies of the DVD are available price £15.99 (inc p&p) from

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