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Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action featured on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show

Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Pastor James Wuye with Friar Ivo Markovic, interviewed by Brian Lehrer on WNYC Credit: Shumita Basu

Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Pastor James Wuye with Friar Ivo Markovic, interviewed by Brian Lehrer on WNYC Credit: Shumita Basu

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.

Tanenbaum Peacemakers Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye Prepare Nigerians for Upcoming Elections

On February 7, 2015, exactly one week before Nigerians were set to head to the polls, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission postponed the Presidential and legislative elections for seven weeks (until March 28th). Concerned that Boko Haram’s violent insurgency in the North would jeopardize the safety of voters around the country, the Commission’s Chairman, Attahiru Jega, heeded the advice of national security officials – delaying the election and announcing a “major” multinational military operation against the terrorist organization. This decision has been widely criticized both in Nigeria and abroad; some worry the postponement will delegitimize the elections and others fear an increased likelihood of election-related violence.

Despite the danger posed by Boko Haram and the challenges posed by this politically charged environment, Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers – Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, Co-Executive Directors of the Interfaith Mediation Center – remain undeterred in their work. Much like their efforts prior to the 2011 elections, these Nigerian Peacemakers are tirelessly preparing Nigerian communities around the country for the election and for conducting it in a peaceful manner.

Interviewed before the elections were postponed, Pastor James discussed the unique challenges posed by Boko Haram, as well as by national ethnic tensions.

Rather than targeting Christians and pitting Muslims against Christians, Boko Haram targets “everyone,” not a specific religious group. Also, many Nigerians are unwillingly being “conscripted, and some are abducted from their families” to become members of the group. As a result, Pastor James believes the insurgents have actually mitigated religious tensions in the country.

Pastor James says that if the opportunity arises he would sit down and talk with the insurgents about their demands. He noted that, prior to the recent offensive, the government’s response to Boko Haram included “soft diplomacy,” which involved an effort “to reintegrate the young men and women who are involved in this insurgency.”

As the elections approach, Pastor James is also concerned about ethnic tensions. Nigeria’s population of more than 149 million people is made up of over 250 ethnic groups. He and Imam Ashafa are urging their fellow Nigerians to respect the election results and refrain from violence as a means of voicing any displeasure. They are focused on the role of religious leaders in the country and believe it will be critical – and, indeed, many of them have been “calling on the populace not to make provocative statements and to play by the rules of the game.”

Pastor James is proud of his homeland and remains hopeful for its future. Yet he understands the challenges that lie ahead and the great need for Nigeria’s “religious leaders to come together as they have before.”

Peacemakers provide counselling services to abducted girls

Nigerian Peacemakers in Action Pastor James and Imam Ashafa to Help Provide Counselling Services to Abducted Girls

The extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 300 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria in April. The much-publicized incident has garnered international support via social media with the “#BringOutGirlsBack” campaign. Boko Haram is Nigeria’s main perpetrator of religion-based violence, deepening the Muslim/Christian divide and threatening the right to religious freedom.

In light of these recent events in Nigeria, Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa have sprung into action alongside Family Health International (FHI) 360 and USAID. Wuye and Ashafa’s joint project, the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Kaduna, will collaborate as one of the three groups working to provide counseling services to 57 recovered girl students from the Government Secondary School Chibok who were abducted by Boko Haram in April. The search continues for the remaining schoolgirls.

The Government Secondary School Chibok girls who escaped from Boko Haram have undergone significant trauma. The Nigerian state emphasized their willingness to provide services and support to the girls and to help them find their families.  Governor Kashim Shettima has expressed his concern for the girls to be rehabilitated and back in new schools. That’s where Peacemakers Pastor James and Imam Ashafa can help.

The Interfaith Mediation Centre is dedicated to working with their partners in order to provide services, including therapy for the girls. As Pastor James describes the deeply important project, he speaks about using a faith-based approach for recovery. The Interfaith Mediation Centre will work with the state-implemented structure and use their unique faith-based approach to counseling, recovery, and conflict resolution. They remain dedicated to helping the girls and other women who are survivors of the Boko Haram abductions.