On Wednesday July 13, award winning radio talk show host, Brian Lehrer, seized the opportunity to interview two Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action, Pastor James Wuye of Nigeria and Friar Ivo Markovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Click here to listen to the show)
Known for thoughtful, candid and sometimes difficult conversations, Brian Lehrer’s daily radio talk show on WNYC, The Brian Lehrer Show, received a George Foster Peabody award in 2007 for “Radio That Builds Community Rather Than Divides”. In 2015, Tanenbaum honored Brian Lehrer as a Media Bridge Builder.
And in 2016, Lehrer interviewed Nigerian Peacemaker Pastor James Wuye who started his peace work by helping teach warring religious youth militias to resolve their conflicts peacefully. Today, Pastor James is busy with his innovative peacemaking work against Boko Haram with his former enemy, now close friend Peacemaker Imam Muhammad Ashafa.
Also on the radio show was Peacemaker Friar Ivo Markovic, a Bosnian Croat Franciscan Catholic who fostered peace in Bosnia following the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. His innovative peace work continues through the use of the arts to promote peace, for example, by bringing young people together from diverse backgrounds and religions.
To begin the interview, Lehrer asked Friar Ivo about the violent sectarian conflict that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992. Friar Ivo recalled those days. “It was a terrible time. War between three sides. Three religions. Three nations, and I felt obliged to do something.” Friar Ivo described how he had conveyed critical information to the outside world about the war, and how, in those dark days, he wanted to show the “positive power” of religious belief. When Brian Lehrer asked Friar Ivo about his interreligious choir based in Bosnia, Friar Ivo described the choir as “a symphony” of religious diversity, and shared how participation in the choir promotes reconciliation as choir members spend time with individuals from different faiths.
Next, Brian Lehrer asked Pastor James Wuye about his transformation from violence to reconciliation: “Pastor James, I read that you did not start your religious career wanting to make peace. That in 1992, violence broke out in Kaduna between Christians and Muslims and as a Christian pastor you wanted to fight and kill Muslims at one time. Is that true? Can you describe that time?”
Pastor James replied, “When I was younger I was a Christian activist. There were challenges in those days, misunderstandings between people of opposite religions usually escalated into violent killing of people or destroying places of worship. It became imperative to me as a young person to learn to defend the church…Listeners cannot see that I have an artificial limb here which I lost as a result of my effort to protect the church from young Muslims who were wrongly programmed to hate. With that kind of hate, hate begets hate.”
Brian Lehrer then asked, “How did you change? How did you go from killing each other’s family members to brokering peace?” And Pastor James continued, “I had a turning point… my leader told me, ‘James you cannot preach Christ with the kind of hate that you have for the Muslims. You have to love them, you have to forgive them, you have to learn to do what Christ would have done if he were here.’ And that was the magic.”
It was this realization that moved Pastor James to begin working with former enemy (and now his fellow Tanenbaum Peacemaker) Imam Muhammad Ashafa. Together, they created the Interfaith Mediation Centre, a grassroots organization that trains Nigeria’s militia-involved youth, along with women, religious figures and tribal leaders to become civic peace activists. Pastor James is dedicated to providing hands-on trainings, but he also believes that “the strongest weapon you can use against your enemy is to love your enemy excessively…you can disarm your enemy through love.”
Brian Lehrer also asked Pastor James spoke about his work with victims of Boko Haram. Pastor James revealed how he has to ask families very difficult (but important) questions: “If your daughter arrives today with a baby from their captor, what will you do?”
Brian Lehrer is a master; he elicited core truths from the powerful stories of two Tanenbaum Peacemakers. He concluded by putting their connection to Tanenbaum into context and asking more about Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Network, and Network interventions, including the 2014 Syrian intervention when Peacemaker Hind Kabawat (Syria) invited her fellow Peacemakers Friar Ivo and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge (South Africa) to train Syrian peace activists.
Hear our Peacemakers in their own words – Click here to listen to the full, 20-minute recording.
We want to express special thanks to Brian Lehrer and WNYC for their curiosity and for giving the Peacemakers the opportunity to share their work with New York.