REV. JOHN JOSEPH HAYAB AND SHIEKH HALLIRU MARAYA
Working for Peace in Northern Nigeria.
Nigeria being a multilingual and multi-religious country has in some years back witnessed identity-based conflicts. Presently, the northern part of the country is experiencing a scourge of identity-based conflict ranging from the Islamic fundamentalism (Boko Haram) menace in the North East and also pastoral violence in southern Kaduna which is threatening our cohesion as country.
Several identity conflicts in different parts of the country have pushed citizens to sometimes query the modalities of the very existence of the country in the context of the uneasy co-habitation of diverse people of over 250 cultures; this is a multitude of cultures in a country which had previously witnessed harmonious inter-cultural relationships for over a century. Many lives have been lost in the course of this problem and economic activities have been paralyzed in some parts of northern Nigeria. Many communities and groups that had been living harmoniously in the past have become estranged.
In an effort to promote mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence among the citizenry in Nigeria, several strategies ranging from policy implementations, national conference, compulsory national youth service, civil and communal initiatives have been incorporated to manage ethno-religious relationships among the diverse groups. Yet it has not yielded the desired result.
Kaduna which is the heartbeat of Northern Nigeria has been engaged as pilot state of “One Family Under God” campaign. The campaign has yielded evidence-based result in northern part of the state as peace is being restored in the area. Even though in some communities of southern part of the state, there is serenity because of the presence of Community Peace Promoters that were equipped with skills of promoting peaceful coexistence in line with vision of “One Family Under God”, however, other communities that are yet to be reached are experiencing crisis where lives and properties are being destroyed.
Developmental efforts have been paralyzed because of hatred, in addition to distrusts and clashes rooted in identity conflict. As a result of this carnage, Global Peace Foundation Nigeria has intensified efforts to foster unity and mutual understanding particularly in the area.
Our approach to peacebuilding
Our approach is community based; we go through the community gatekeepers particularly the traditional rulers. Global Peace Foundation Nigeria considers traditional rulers as one of the influential actors in peacebuilding process and also structurally armed to enact laws at community level to ensure mutual respect and unity hence, collaborate with them. We work together with them to further strengthen traditional system of conflict resolution and management. It is in view of the fact that traditional rulers especially in Muslims communities play a dual role i.e. traditional and religious function that makes it sustainable to win the mind of many communities in managing conflict at community level.
Engaging religious leaders at grassroots level
Global Peace Foundation Nigeria has been working assiduously in building the capacity of the local Pastors and Imams at grass-root level with a view to preach in accordance with their religious tenet based on the vision of “One Family Under God”. Today, in the communities we have reached, churches and mosques have begun to change the story by adopting a paradigm shift of preaching hate messages to fostering unity.
Deliberate facilitation and management of interaction meetings among the leaders and followers of dominant religious groups at the community level have therefore been adopted by Global Peace Foundation Nigeria to directly address a religious friction and prevent such frictions from degenerating into violence. The use of “interfaith dialogues, education and awareness” remain major features of Global Peace Foundation Nigeria, and these features are also combined with radio programs of “One Family Under God” campaign with the intent of having a wider coverage to build religious adherents in order to distract parties from the frustrations that push them towards religious violence.
The key objective of interfaith dialogue is to emphasis the similarities inherent in the religious doctrines of the various belief systems. Practically, the major religions (Christianity and Islam) in our focal communities basically preach the same central doctrine – peaceful living among different faiths to the commands of a superior being.
Mediation is one of the critical tools being deployed to resolve violence ravaging the southern Kaduna area. We have succeeded in bringing together Fulani herdsmen and natives of Southern Kaduna separately for mutual interaction in order to facilitate better understanding of each other’s position and to jointly chart the way for co-existence in an environment of mutual understanding and respect.
Neutrality and sincerity are critical factors we consider in the mediation process which must be the reason why we gained their confidence. This confidence stimulated the interest of the conflicting parties to be ready to open up and express their feelings about the kind of interactions they are expected to establish with the opposite parties.
We hope to learn from the experience of other participants in these weeks of positive interaction .