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Paul Coletti | 17:50 UK time, Tuesday, 5 December 2006

We talked about about Christmas decorations and the tale of an Imam and Pastor from Nigeria who have got together to encourage inter-faith dialogue.

Merry Christmas?

Michael Hoss’ company did the survey: “We were surprised by the numbers.”

Rabs has told Michael that WHYS found it difficult to find anyone who was against Christmas decorations.

Imam Ashafa: “People should accept people.“

Pastor: “The important issue is that the world should learn to see people for what they are.”

Nicole, a convert from Christianity to the Muslim faith, has called in from NYC: “It’s an issue where I live. Christian people raise their children with Christmas. Both parties get offended. If you are invited to the office raffles, you have to explain to people ‘I don’t celebrate that festival.’”

Mike Bird is a former Mayor of Walsall in the Midlands: “I don’t believe in Nicole’s points. It’s only one day.”

Nicole: “It imposes on people. It becomes a part of your family thing . . .my kids come home making Santa Claus. It’s kind of intrusive.”

Mike: “It’s only intrusive if you want to make it. This country is indigenously a Christian people and we cater for all religions. We have Eid for the Muslim community. People can dip in, dip out as much as they like. I love Diwali when I get fresh Samosa cooked by the Indian community.”

Nicole: “In New York I don’t see that happening.”

Anu has joined us from Delhi: “If you like religious festivals this is the country to be in. 42 Hindu , 5 Muslim, 3 Christian, 4 Jain and 2 Buddhist festivals. That’s 32 official government holidays. This country does not shy away from celebrations. It’s a different culture from that which Nicole was describing. There are so many holidays that it would be hard to argue that one dominates. On one level India has a lot of religious problems. Muslims and Hindus. When it comes to people in cities working together it’s an incredibly multi-ethnic society. There is no fear of litigation here.”

Terry Sanderson: “Tinsel has nothing to do with religion. Christmas is celebrated as a secular festival now in the UK. There have been rape allegations at Christmas parties. People are just being careful.”

Nyah has called from Pakistan: “If the Muslims start to celebrate the Christian festivals will the Christians do the same for Muslim festivals?”

Leena is in London: “It makes me feel excluded. While I grew up here I was not raised a Christian. It tells me this is not something I’m a part of.”

James is in Egypt: “I live in Southern Egypt and the people here insist on me having decorations and they send me cards. Just as when I was a headmaster here in a school I got Christmas cards. I understand how some people don’t want parties but decorations?”

We’re breaking for the news so stay right there . . .

Heard the one about a pastor and an imam in a radio studio?
Pastor James: “My colleague and I used to lead militia groups. We hated each other. We fought and killed. Listeners can not see my artifical limb which I received.”

Imam Ashafa: “He was somebody who was very antagonistic to Islam.”

Pastor James: “Nigeria is finely balanced . . . particularly in Kaduna in Northern Nigeria. Everything that comes to Kaduna is tested. Nigeria is a very religious country. Is it as Godly as it is religious, that is the question?”

Imam Ashafa: “1987 was the turning point. About 2,000 people lost their lives. In 1992 the situation got worse. I lost my religious teacher.”

Rabs: “What brought you two together?”

Pastor: “A chance meeting. Today has been 11 years of building reconciliation. When we shared rooms I wanted to suffocate him. We love each other now so intensely.”

Pastor James: “The issue is not tolerance, it is acceptance. I want you to go out there and meet a Muslim friend.”

Imam Ashafa: “Islam is a proselytising faith. Likewise Christianity. We want to convert people. We want healthy competition not destructive competition.”

Sarah is in Egypt and has a question: “Has the partnership caused them to face lack of acceptance from their communities?”

Imam Ashafa: “When I started to think of non-violence some saw me as compromising the principles, some saw me as a traitor, other feel you are doing the right thing. The first 3 years were difficult. Today I will tell you over 70% of my community are behind me.”

Dr. Ishaq called from in Lagos: “I belong to a Muslim human rights organisation. I want to ask the Imam what motivated the Muslims to attack their neighbours.”

Imam Ashafa: “The scriptures. There are texts that seems ambiguous to others, that seem to promote hate. When you have incapable scholars they use it as a tool to manipulate the minds of the people.”

Benedict: “How really do they think Christians and Muslims in this country can live in peace?”

Some comments from the bbcnews.com/haveyoursay site are coming in:

Nerys says..

I'm a devout Christian, and my best friend is a devout Muslim. We believe in completely different things, but yet we still find common things in our religions

Kwemah says..
When it suits these religious "leaders", they suddenly make up their minds that tolerance is more productive than beheading people simply for their faith. When will the next mood swing occur?

Vijay in India says
What a curse religion has been on mankind. Every true believer in each religion feels sacriligious to even consider other points of view..

David in the Us says
People of different faiths can live together, so long as they don't try to force other people to believe as they do.

Harry in Ireland says..
This sets a great example, as religious tolerance is a message that overcomes adversity and remains steadfast.

John Says
This is a great story if all Christians and Muslims could follow this good example what a better world we would live in

Shoab is in Saudi Arabia: “In the Koran it mentions that you should be going for common terms rather than the differences.”

Imam Ashafa: “Islam is not anti multi religion. I’m happy someone in Saudi is affirming this.”

Eze has called in:”How do you penetrate into the communities where the differences exist?”

Imam Ashafa: “The government is collaborating with us. Yes we differ. But I like the common grounds.”

That’s all for tonight. If any of you would like to get in touch with Imam Ashafa or Pastor James then contact the following:

  • Interfaith Mediation Centre,
    East Wing,
    6th Floor,
    NNIL Building,
    No. 4 Muhammad Buhari Way,
    (Waff Road) Kaduna,
    +234 062 243816 (off)
    +234 062 415814 (Res)
    e-Mail: mcdf2002@yahoo.com


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