Turning enemies into friends

Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa are unlikely friends. At one time both men plotted to kill each other and sowed hatred among their fundamentalist followers, fueling a deadly rivalry. But they have since put their past behind them in the interest of bringing peace to Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, the largest nation in the world that has a population that is half Muslim and half Christian. The pastor and imam say that what unites them is a spiritual commitment to God, despite their differing views on faith, and the desire to make the world a better place. They now model that spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation to bring peace to the region (see “A pastor and an imam once tried to kill each other—now they work to heal Nigeria,” PRI.org).

Some might describe merciful acts as the rallying of the human spirit in the face of adversity, or humanitarian efforts that are core to being a good citizen or neighbor. Others might see that at the heart of their efforts is the kind of spiritual commitment to choose good over evil, and to choose love over hate, that the Nigerian pastor and imam have practiced.

In my experience, I have seen how a clear sense of the relation we each have to God, good, the source of all, leads us to choose what best promotes peace. With divine goodness as our primary source, we see our true connection to each other as spiritual reflections of God. Christ Jesus spoke of us reflecting the divine in this way when he said, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36). He showed and proved that expressing mercy is a reflection of the love that comes from God. Relying on this divine goodness to inspire our actions and words to be merciful brings reconciliation and healing to otherwise intractable situations.

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