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Meeting the Twins: The Power of Interfaith in Addressing Violent Extremism

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By Emeka Arinze Iloegbu, for the Global Peace Foundation

As an attendee of the 2017 Global Peace Convention, I had the privilege of having lunch with both Sheikh Hailru Abdullahi Maraya and Rev John Joseph Hayab, affectionately known as “the Kaduna twins” for their interfaith work in Nigeria through the One Family under God campaign.

Sheikh Maraya and Rev Hayab were recipients of the Interfaith Leadership Award at the 2017 Global Peace Awards Gala.  Both are men of integrity, passion and humility and share a unified vision to alleviate suffering. This is so clearly demonstrated in their work in Nigeria where they are co-facilitators in workshops that help faith leaders in Kaduna State stand up for one another as human beings, regardless of their different religions. 

Although now a resident of the United States, I had the inspiring opportunity to visit my home country of Nigeria a year ago and was deeply moved by the many caring people willing to invest everything, even at the cost of their life, for the sake of healing the divides in their communities.

Today, there are issues most organizations and religious institutions cannot address on their own. What is left is for these groups to create partnerships. They work with other individuals who not only have access to conflict areas but also exhibit the characteristics and qualities of a leader needed to stand firm against violence, human rights violations, and inequality.

The key component of this unity between two different religious groups is seen by their connection to humanity and the principles and values that they share, not defined by one religion alone. One Muslim, and one Christian, both with a shared vision to end suffering in their home of Kaduna State Nigeria has inspired me to share this testimony.

“In the Southern part of the state there is incessant killing, destruction of places of worship, and reprisal attacks. Humanity is being challenged,”

stated Sheikh Maraya during the Interfaith Peacebuilding Session on March 1. Rev. John Joseph Hayab supported the Sheik, saying that we must find correlations between religions that can generate dialogue.

Using examples found in both the Bible and Quran, the religious leaders pointed to the genesis stories of humanity as a method they used in their own communities to show similarities between both religions. This allows both of these powerful and influential leaders to bring two faith leaders in a local community together to resolve conflict.

The Interfaith Sessions of Global Peace Convention
brought leaders of various religious backgrounds together.

Both Sheikh and Rev. Hayab are peacemakers, preachers, and family men who go into communities within 24-48 hours after an attack to immediately start peace talks in hopes of preventing reprisal attacks but more importantly to publicly speak against the violent attack.

“When a leader of Muslim faith speaks up against an attack on a Christian, or if a leader of Christian faith speaks up against an attack on a Muslim, it will go a long way to building peace,” stated Sheikh Maraya. Sheikh and Rev Hayab’s bond and partnership is quite unique. Their respect and understanding of each other’s principles, moral values, and religious beliefs allows them to work effectively in complex settings.

The Interfaith Peacebuilding track is one of six tracks featured at the 2017 Global Peace Convention, which took place from February 28 through March 2 in Manila, Philippines.