The imam, Muhammad Ashafa (on the right), and the pastor, James Wuye (on the left), have been touring media houses in the UK, giving an account of the story behind their documentary - The Imam & the Pastor. In this period of double festivities, Christmas and Eid ul-Adha, (Eid el-Kabir in Nigeria) which takes place from December 31 to January 2, it is only right that such a film comes out now.
Ashafa and Wuye were once on opposing sides of the religious divide in Kaduna, members of muslim and christian militias respectively. These were men full of religiously induced sectarian spunk, whose very existence was for the destruction of the other. When you think of all the recurring episodes of religious strife in Nigeria, these two would've played their part somehow. Wuye has the scars to show for the defence of his religion, a missing hand.
But many roads lead to Damascus, people in Kaduna can chart their paths on the famous road of conversion if they're willing to yield. They were converted, not from their faiths, but to friendship and mutual existence. It's the kind of spirit Nigeria needs.
Most of us can remember festive periods in our neighbourhoods - the food dishes left the house empty and came back packed with goodies. The Christians supplied the neighbourhood with food during Christmas and Easter, and the Muslims returned the gesture during any Eid festivals. Since this was the kind of harmony we were used to, eruptions of violence always came as a shock.
My worry is that The Imam & the Pastor will tour all the festivals, the great and the good will laud it, but those that need to see it will not. The people in Jos, the people in Ajegunle, the places where bodies litter the streets when religious militias retaliate over a pinprick. Places where "a man steals another man's chicken" becomes "a Christian steals a Muslim's chicken". They won't get to see this film, and that is the tragedy.
It is the season to be merry, however, and the existence of the film is ipso facto commendable. I will get the DVD, and I also urge others to get it. Watch the trailer here.