L’Imam et le Pasteur – Ottawa, January 23, 2009
The first public screening of the French language version of the Imam & the Pastor in Ottawa took place at Saint Paul University on Friday, January 23. The event was a collaboration between the Conflict Studies program of the university and Initiatives of Change.
The panel consisted of Philothée Kigeme from Burundi, a student in Conflict Studies, Oscar Gasana, a federal civil servant, graduate from the Masters in conflict studies program, former President of the Rwandan community association, and Abdourahman Kahin, psychologist, originally from Djibouti, who represented Muslim Presence.
The audience of 35-40 engaged very actively in the discussion that followed the film. At least some of the empty seats could be attributed, somewhat ironically, to the city’s own unresolved conflict - a month long transit strike. Among those present was Jean Monbourquette, a noted author based at Saint-Paul University; a visiting Swiss pastor, his wife and son, others on staff at the university and in the CICR (Canadian Institute of Conflict Resolution) and a number of people who had escaped from conflict in Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC.
The relatively small number of people made it possible to have good and open dialogue between the panelists and the audience, following the film. “Before seeing the film, I didn’t think reconciliation was possible”, said Philothée, “but now I know it is. Without hope, we’re at the end of the road, but when you have hope, you go on.” She continued, “We need to exploit what is common to us, rather than our differences. Somebody always has to be the first to change, like the Imam visiting the Pastor’s ill mother”. Abdourahman noted that the words reconciliation, forgiveness, trust and peace occur many times through the film, but that without acceptance, they are not possible. “You can’t put a price on peace”, he said.
The discussion went beyond the generally positive things people tend to say about the film to more difficult issues. A survivor of the Rwanda genocide wondered how he could be expected to forgive those who had killed members of his family or, for that matter, ask for forgiveness of those whom he may have unjustly accused, so long as the justice process failed to reveal who was actually responsible for those crimes. Several felt that the issue of justice was not adequately addressed in the film. While that might be true, it was pointed out that the film was not attempting to address every issue but simply to share an authentic experience.