By Gervais Lakosso and Alan Channer
A ceremony to mark the launch of Initiatives of Change's film The Imam and the Pastor in Sängö, the national language of the Central African Republic (CAR), took place on 13th January 2018.
CAR was plunged into turmoil in 2013 when Muslim rebels from the Seleka umbrella group seized power in the majority Christian country. A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-balaka, rose up to counter the Seleka. Seleka handed power to a transitional government in 2014 but violence continues and CAR remains unstable. 2.3 million people – half the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict. 1
Destruction after communal clashes - Photo by UNICEF
The launch of The Imam and the Pastor in Sängö is the first step in a plan to use the film as a tool for peace and reconciliation across the country.
The documentary, made by IofC’s For the Love of Tomorrow Films, depicts the remarkable journey from vengeance to forgiveness of Nigerian peacemakers Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye. You can watch the award-winning film in English here:
Gervais Lakosso, director of the “Cercle de Recherche et d'Education par les Arts”, was struck by the relevance of the film at a peacebuilding meeting supported by the Swiss Government, in Caux, Switzerland, in 2015. With the support of the French NGO, Terre Solidaire, and in partnership with the film’s producer, Dr Alan Channer, Lakosso went on to complete a Sängö version in 2017.
The launch was attended by the President of the Islamic Community of the Central African Republic, Imam Kobine Layama and by the President of the Evangelical Alliance of CAR, Pastor Nicolas Guerekoyame Gbangou. Imam Oumar Gomi of Bangui’s central mosque, Protestant pastors and Catholic priests were also present.
The Ministry of Arts and Culture, Ministry of Youth, High Council of Communication, High Authority of Good Governance, National Council of Mediation, Network of NGOs for the Defence of Human Rights, G23 Platform of Political Participation of Women, National Youth Council, National School of Arts and the Network of Journalists for Human Rights all attended.
50 copies of the DVD were distributed at the launch.
Gervais Lakosso is interviewed after the launch
“The magic of the arts can open the heart and write upon it lasting messages which endow new understanding and a new vision of life, and thereby make people actors of change and of peace,” said Lakosso. “The film The Imam and the Pastor is a concrete example. Relating the story of two men of God who hated each other and fought in religious militias, but who ended up becoming reconciled and then reconciling their communities, this film is a tool for the disarmament of the heart and the mind.
“We are going to duplicate the film, send it out across the country, and accompany it with a training programme in interreligious peaceful coexistence and the role of media in building peace, which will be lead by the imam, the pastor and the producer of the film, so as to start a process for the sustainable strengthening of peace in the Central African Republic.”