From Enemies to Peace Workers

Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa (FCT Kaduna). Forum for Cities in Transition Annual Gathering
Photo by Allan Leonard, via Flickr

Can enemies work together? Ryan Geertsma and Robin Basselin tell the story of two enemies who share a message of peace.

Watch Video


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

A group of Muslims and Christians stand together near the town of Yelwa, in the country of Nigeria. This group is gathered around a mass grave. Many bodies are buried here. They are bodies of people who died during violent fighting between Christians and Muslims. But today, this group of Muslims and Christians are not fighting each other. Instead, they are praying together. And they are led by two religious leaders – Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye. These two religious leaders did not always work together. In fact, they were once enemies. But through their faith, they forgave each other. And now, they work for peace between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria and around the world. Today's Spotlight is on Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye.

Voice 2

Imam Ashafa is from a strong Muslim family. For many generations, his family members were religious leaders. He comes from a tradition that has worked to protect, recover and reform Islam. Ashafa has always followed this Islamic tradition. So, it was not a surprise when he became an imam or Islamic leader in his community.

Voice 1

However, Pastor James Wuye’s story is a little different. Wuye did not always follow the teachings of the Christian religion. He came from a Christian family, but he was not devoted to his faith. When he was a young man, he drank a lot of alcohol. If he went to church, it was only to meet girls. But one day this all changed. Wuye was sitting in church listening to the pastor speak. The pastor’s words made Wuye recognize that he was not living the way God wanted him to live. In a film called "The Imam and the Pastor," Wuye explained,

Voice 3 

"I had a strong feeling in my heart that God was speaking to me and that I needed to change. That was my turning point."

Voice 2 

After this, Wuye decided to follow the Christian faith.  And later, he became a Christian pastor and community leader.

Voice 1 

By 1987, Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye were both religious leaders in the city of Kaduna. Kaduna is an area of major conflict between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. Here, thousands of people have died in fighting between the two religious groups. Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye were part of this conflict. They were violent religious leaders. They each fought with religious militia. These armed groups fought each other in the name of their religion.

Voice 2

In 1992, Muslim and Christian militias began fighting in Kaduna. For two days, Muslims and Christians killed each other. Both Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa fought in this battle. Many of Wuye’s friends died. And a Muslim fighter cut off Wuye's hand. Ashafa lost two of his family members in the battle. And Christian fighters killed Ashafa's close friend and religious leader.

Voice 1 

After this battle, both men were full of hate for each other. Ashafa wanted revenge. He wanted to punish the Christians who killed his friends and family. So, Ashafa formed a group to kill Wuye and other Christian leaders. But then, something changed. One day, Ashafa was at a local mosque. At this Muslim place of worship, he listened to the imam speak. This religious leader talked about the power of forgiveness. He said that if a Muslim wanted to follow the example of Muhammad, he must forgive the people who hurt him. Ashafa told film makers,

Voice 4 

"I was crying, tears were flowing down my face. I was in a conflict between my conscience and my desire for revenge. The imam said, 'Let's pray.' We prayed, and after that, I truly forgave James Wuye."

Voice 2 

That was the day Ashafa stopped killing in the name of his religion.

Voice 1 

Later, Ashafa met Wuye in person. A news worker, who was friends with both Ashafa and Wuye, brought them together. Ashafa told the peace group Tanenbaum about this meeting. He said,

Voice 4 

"He took both of us by the hand and said: 'The two of you can pull this nation together, or you can destroy it. Do something."

Voice 2 

After this, the two men agreed to begin meeting together. But Wuye still did not trust Ashafa. He was still very angry. For three years, Wuye was tempted to kill Ashafa. But like Ashafa, Wuye’s heart finally changed. And like Ashafa, this change came from the words of a religious leader. Another Christian pastor spoke to Wuye at a meeting. Wuye told filmmakers about it.

Voice 3 

"He said to me, ‘I know you. I know what you are doing. But you cannot speak about Jesus Christ with hate. Christ is love. And the message we are carrying is love... If you will truly do this work, you must learn to forgive.’... That broke me finally. That was my turning point."

Voice 1 

After this, Ashafa and Wuye began truly working together for peace. Together, they started the Interfaith Mediation Center. For 20 years, they have worked through this organization to stop violence in their country and around the world. Ashafa and Wuye travel to conflict areas and hold meetings between fighting groups. They encourage people to read Christian and Muslim Holy Books in a peaceful way. Together, they work to rebuild churches and mosques that have been destroyed by fighting. The Center also has a television program that more than 2 million people watch. They write programs for schools and communities. Today, the Center has more than 10,000 members in Nigeria. But the work does not stop with Nigeria. Ashafa and Wuye even travel to other countries to share these programs.

Voice 2 

Ashafa and Wuye’s work is not easy. Some Christians and Muslims believe that the two men are betraying their faiths. Ashafa spoke about this issue with Georgetown University.  He said,

Voice 4 

“It is not about debates between the two, or winning and losing. It is about talking together and looking at issues that affect both of us and how we can move our country forward."

Voice 1 

Pastor James Wuye also believes he remains true to his Christian religion. And he believes peace between the two religions is possible. Wuye told filmmakers,

Voice 3 

"I live my faith very strongly. And Ashafa does too... Yes Christianity and Islam can live side by side... I love Ashafa because Jesus has taught me to love others as I would love myself. And I live by that teaching."

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, “From Enemies to Peace Workers.”

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!


Can enemies ever work together? What could change a person so that is possible?


Avatar Spotlight
said on April 20, 2014

Audio Player can’t listen, please fix it…tks

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 21, 2014

Hello spotlight.
There is a mistake in the second paragraph. It’s “that has worked to….”
Thank you.
u r the best

Green Kale's avatar
Green Kale
said on April 21, 2014

Life is very short, so break your silly egos, forgive quickly, believe slowly, love truly, laugh loudly, and never aopid anything that make you smile.

Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on April 21, 2014

Two examples of the peace between brothers.
Thanks Spotlight

0's avatar
said on April 22, 2014

Thanks timetobealive! We have corrected that paragraph.

Longha, thank you for letting us know about this problem. We are looking into it right now.

Avatar Spotlight
Guoguo Wang
said on April 22, 2014

I cannot download the voice, what shall I do?

Avatar Spotlight
Jimmy Roberto Espinoza Mercado
said on April 23, 2014

Violence brings insecurity, ill-feeling, conflicts, death and destruction. We build and add value to this world just in times of peace. Fill your lives with positive things! Live each moment of your life intensely, with peace and love! Thank you!

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 23, 2014

Could you fix player, please?

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 24, 2014

The amazing story about how the two leaders of different religions forgave each other and joined with the view of showing people the right way to peace in their country.
Thanks for the great program!

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 28, 2015

These two enemies leaders demostrate who it is possible to became a peace workers together, being
only necessary to debate the problems that effect the people suffering with the war.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 02, 2015

We forgive instead of taking revenge. We love everyone instead of acting violently. Taking revenge lengthens revenge. Act of violence lengthens violence. We are willing to die away in the life everyday. We live our lives for beautiful good things. We die for beautiful good things. We die away with not good things. We live our new lives with beautiful good things. Sacrifices dispel revenge. Sacrifices dispel violence. We love beautiful good things. Not good things pass by. Beautiful good things exist.

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on June 03, 2016

As a principle, Yes, Enemies can work together and cooperate together for peace.
Germany with France, France with UK, and all Europe between thimselves in generaly. USA with Japan (Obama visited to Hiroshima recently).
But I think that making real cooperation or real peace with Muslims is impossible.
Because the Islam ordering to Muslims to peace with others only when Muslims are the weaker or the minority.
Because the Islam based on the principle of “JIHAD” which is a principle of killing and terrorism.
Because the Islam thinking that rule is the excausive right of Muslims.
Some Islamic countries made peace with Israel but the truth that peace is not a real peace and all Muslims in around the world not confessing with that peace and they believe that Israel is illegal in region and must be removed Israel and drown of Jews into sea.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on June 04, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Saturday 04, June 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil.

Dear Roblin Baselin, Jen Hawkins, Ryan Geertsma, and Mark Drenth:

Once more, thank you very much to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article .
Yes, they can. But this situation is a little difficult to deal with.  I think that what would could change a person to improve this situation is to live in peace between them.

Your regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 13, 2017

I am catholic. It is impotant that is forgiveness because God is love and we made from love