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Muhammad Ashafa
Country/region: Nigeria, Middle Belt
Conflict: Christian and Muslim Groups
Organisation: Interfaith Mediation Center (IMC)
Field of work: Early warning systems to prevent religious violence; mediation
Together with his partner, Pastor Dr. James Wuye, Imam Dr. Muhammad Ashafa is actively involved in mediation work in the recurrent eruptions of violent conflict in the Middle Belt of Nigeria, where the Muslim-dominated North and the predominantly Christian South collide. Together they have successfully appealed to communities to refrain from acts of vengeance in the wake of massacres.

In Nigeria, where over 90 % of the population believes in God, religious leaders enjoy a high reputation. The pastor and the imam use this to positive effect in their use of the mass media to draw attention to the message of peace contained in both the Bible and the Koran. With the IMC, they organise training sessions in non-violent conflict resolution for groups in civil society.

Their successes in bringing peace to the federal state of Kaduna have led to invitations to mediate in other countries with similar Christian-Muslim conflicts such as Sudan and Kenya.Their „Early Warning – Early Response“ systems for conflicts with a religious dimension are their most important tool in the prevention of violence.

These involve bringing together leading personalities from both religious groups in teams, which – after initial confidence-building measures – undertake to set in motion a sequence of alerts, which also include the country’s security agencies, at even the slightest hint of escalating violence.

One of the unique forms the expansion of their activities has taken is the training of twelve more pastor-imam teams, in some cases involving ex-militiamen like themselves, who work together using the same approach and thereby contribute to its spread.

Their work has been honoured with the award of the Ashoka Fellowship, the Bremen Peace Award and the Peace Prize of the Fondation Chirac.