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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.

Meet the Peacemakers

The week from July 9th to the 16th was a special one for Tanenbaum. We had the rare opportunity to visit with the diverse and passionate women and men, who are dedicating their lives to promoting peace, religious understanding, and a safer world – Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers in Action. This opportunity arises only once every few years, when we convene the Peacemakers in Action Network for a Working Retreat, where they have the chance to network in person and learn from each other, as well as from other experts in the field. This year, we were excited to have 18 Peacemakers with us, from global conflicts including Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Israel.

In the middle of the Retreat, we spent a day in Manhattan. While there, some Peacemakers presented their work at the United Nations, while others discussed extremism, women’s issues arising in their work, and what the Peacemakers in Action Network has done for them on The Brian Lehrer Show. They also had a little “me” time for shopping, taking in The Met, and eating New York Pizza!

That evening, Tanenbaum leaders and friends met the Peacemakers. It was a moment to hear stories directly from the Peacemakers, as they shared their own experiences in battling extremism, conducting post-trauma counseling of those released from terrorists, and using music to heal post-conflict communities. Our Board Chair, Justin Foa, graciously opened his home for the event, which was sponsored by GHR, KAICIID, the Greek Archdiocese of North America, and Winebow. Without these wonderful partnerships, none of this – the Working Retreat or the Meet the Peacemakers evening – would have been possible.

Today, we so often feel helpless – and hopeless – as we face random acts of terror, hatred and exclusion. Tanenbaum Peacemakers remind us that there is reason to hope. To those of you who were able to be with us at the UN, who listened to the Brian Lehrer show or who joined us to meet the Peacemakers, we thank you. And to those of you who could not be with us, we hope to see you soon. For now, please enjoy a few pictures from our evening together with the Peacemakers in Action.

The misidentified Boston suspects: News Roundup

The communications team is attending the Peacemakers retreat this week – or as I'm calling it – the best week ever.  Check out yesterday's blog post for more info.

And below, the biggest news from last week (from our perspective).

As a nation lived in fear in the days following the Boston Marathon bombings two innocent Massachusetts residents have described being wrongly run off a train and swarmed by reporters outside their home.

In all of these scenarios they say there was one thing that linked them together: A New York Post cover splashing their faces as wanted suspects in the deadly attack.

Now they are suing the paper, accusing the tabloid of falsely portraying them as suspects in the April attack leading to inflicted emotional distress and even near loss of their jobs.  New York Daily News

She rose to the podium and cast her eyes skyward. The mayor of Monterrey then entrusted her Mexican city to God and Jesus Christ as the crowd around her cheered.

“I open the doors of this city to God as the maximum authority,” Mayor Margarita Arellanes said. “I recognize that without his presence and his help, we cannot have real success.”

Whether a sign of desperation for how dire things are in northern Mexico, which is plagued by drug violence, or simply a profession of faith, Arellanes’ weekend speech has rankled many in this country where the separation of church and state is a founding principle — one that helped spark a violent uprising a century ago.  Los Angeles Times

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) is requesting an investigation following repeated vandalism to a Minnesota mosque.

The Muslim Society Center in Owatonna, Minn. told CAIR-MN that a window had been broken early Saturday. Mosque leaders said it appeared someone broke it using a bat or other object. This incident marks the second window in two weeks and third time in a year that a window has been broken at the mosque.

CAIR-MN executive director Lori Saroya said the repeated nature of the vandalism could indicate subversive motives.  Fox Minneapolis

Graduation, religion and free speech combined for the perfect storm at the conclusion of the 2013 high school year.

The most recent flap came out of Texas, where school district officials cut the mic after Joshua High School senior Remington Reimer strayed from his pre-approved text and started talking about his faith and constitutional rights.

A Huffington Post account of the incident noted the ceremony ended in prayer and turning off the microphone was pursuant to district policy that warns if students deviate from their approved speech the sound will be shut off.  Deseret News