I saw Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye last night at West End Collegiate Church. Part of their presentation echoed a conversation we’d had together in the office earlier that day about how to measure impact. Pastor James spoke about the hundreds of people that were killed in Jos, Nigeria in November 2008. In this crisis many died, he said, but not the 57, 786 of another time in the same region, before the Interfaith Mediation Centre began its work. Powerful, and yet, this is not a comparison often made for evaluations and donors – because how do you assess impact in the negative – in the numbers not killed?
Jumping ahead to another part of their presentation, I come to my subject line: “When you hate, it is like taking poison and expecting your neighbor to die.” Whatever else you may wish to say about them (their lectures run over time, for example), you cannot say that the Imam and the Pastor don’t know what it’s like to be violent, to seek revenge, to hate. My favorite line – that always gets a laugh – in Pastor James’ speeches is that he was tempted for three years to suffocate Imam Ashafa in his sleep with hotel room pillows. These men have had to work to forgive; they have to overcome the mountain of hate to reach love for each another.
Also a part of this fine evening, singer/slam poet Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo brought to mind the children’s game “1,2,3 red light.” We grow up saying “red light,” she sang, “and we stop looking for the green.” Go for it, change, the whole night seemed to say. Persist, because it is worth it. Offer your enemy a cup of tea, Pastor James said. “…100 cups of tea.”
(These Tanenbaum Peacemakers from Nigeria were in town to offer the last lecture in Intersections‘ series, “The Heart of Conflict: Pathways to Peace.” )