Monday, November 7, 2011

"The best way to convert your worst enemy is to turn him into your best friend." – Imam Ashafa

Dr David Smock, receives Imam Ashafa, Dr Golwa, and Pastor Wuye at USIP(Photo: Kathy Aquilina)

“Your work in healing communities and encouraging reconciliation reminded those in attendance of the fundamental importance of organic, community-led processes,” wrote Gay Rosenblum-Kumar, Executive Secretary of the Interagency Framework Team for Preventive Action, following a showing of An African Answer at the UN Headquarters in NY.

An African Answer, a follow-up to the 2006 documentary The Imam and the Pastor, tells the story of how two former militia leaders from Nigeria applied their experience and methodology to promote reconciliation in Kenya after the communal killings early in 2008 following the disputed parliamentary elections. The protagonists of the film Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, supported by its director, Dr Alan Channer and the Kenyan production consultant, Joseph Karanja, engaged in a one-hour discussion with 40 UN staff.

The US Institute of Peace (USIP), which commissioned An African Answer and initiated this visit, hosted the US launch of the film at an event chaired by Dr David Smock, Senior Vice President of the Institute’s Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution and facilitated by Maureen Fiedler of National Public Radio. The discussion focused on the choice of Burnt Forest, the location in Kenya where this peace intervention took place. Karanja explained, “When you heal Burnt Forest you heal the whole of Kenya.“ Included with the film is an 8-minute bonus feature Two Years Later. It shows how peace has taken hold and economic development has followed in Burnt Forest and the impact that is having nationally.

This event was part of a week-long series of screenings and presentations arranged in partnership with Initiatives of Change for audiences in government institutions and universities in NY and Washington.

Film showing at American University (Photo: Alan Channer)

Audiences at New York, American, and Eastern Mennonite Universities as well as the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University responded enthusiastically to the film. At American University students in the School of International Service, many of whom expect to work in the field of conflict resolution, were eager to understand the methodology used by these two Nigerian peacemakers in their intervention work in Kenya. Several wanted to know why they were trusted by the Kenyans. It was clear that their personal experience, integrity and humility helped dispel fears in this situation. But their work was not without great risk and they entered it with no assured outcome.

An illustrated Resource Guide for Grass-roots Practitioners authored by Imam Ashafa and Pastor James and edited by Alan Channer accompanies the film. Also available is a further interview with the peacemakers on their methodology and a manual on using the film to facilitate dialogue and peacebuilding by Dr David Steele.

The fact that the film and accompanying materials so clearly outline the methodology has led to a number of discussions about its applicability in other intractable conflict situations. There is a pressing need to translate the film into Swahili and Hausa. There were UNDP requests to use it in Chad, as well as continuing the work in Nigeria and Kenya and the possibility of collaboration on an education initiative in the Middle East.

Read further reports of their visit to New York and Washington

Order form for the 2 DVDs.