"Leave this summit with a resolve be peacemakers in our families, neighbourhood, communities, the state and the country. If each and every one of us resolves to do this, we can rest assured that peace will pervade our state and our country shall become heaven of peace once again.” H.E. Amina Namadi Sambo
The challenges of building social cohesion and shared agreements among a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, religiously plural society is highly visible in Nigeria today. 100 years after the amalgamation of the country and nearly 50 years since its independence, Nigeria continues the struggle to build national cohesion amidst sharp regional divisions, mounting tensions over the 2015 elections and the ongoing violence of religious extremists such as Boko Haram and Ansaru.
At the heart of Nigeria is the district of Kaduna, which has been seen as a microcosm of the country, with the population evenly divided between Christians in the south and Muslims in the North. A place that has been much violence in the past, GPF and its partner organizations are working here to build a common vision and a robust interfaith movement to substantialize the dream of “One Family Under God.”
The One Family Under God campaign was initiated at the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Abuja in 2013. It is a values-based approach to peacebuilding and community development that taps the moral authority of religious leaders and traditional rulers. GPF Nigeria has worked to educate faith leaders and encourage substantial cooperation between faith communities through its Interfaith and Youth Leadership Retreats.
In 2014, these retreats were held in the three regions of Kaduna state during June and July, in cooperation with the Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association and the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. The retreats engage Nigerian faith and youth leaders of diverse religious beliefs to challenge attitudes and behaviors through dialogue and direct engagement between people of different tribal, ethnic and religious identities. As “One Family Under God,” Nigerians are challenged to build a more equitable, inclusive and cooperative society based on a common vision, universal principles and shared values.
The success of these retreats is evident in the follow up Kaduna Summit held later in 2014 on October 23rd, which drew over 700 participants. The Grand Patron of GPF Nigeria, Her Excellency, Hajiya (Dr.) Amina Namadi Sambo, the wife of the Vice President of Nigeria presided over the convening and urged all the participants “leave this summit with a resolve be peacemakers in our families, neighbourhood, communities, the state and the country. If each and every one of us resolves to do this, we can rest assured that peace will pervade our state and our country shall become heaven of peace once again.”
The results of these kinds of programs hinge on the ability of participants to translate a change in consciousness into the way one lives in the day to day.
Following the Kaduna retreats, Muslim and Christian communities have begun to work together to manifest the vision of One Family Under God.
Projects between the Muslim and Christian communities that developed out of the retreats have included building a local bridge, working to improve hospital security, raising funds together to buy classroom equipment for a local interfaith school, among many others. There have also been declarations by local interfaith groups who intend to prevent and stop the use of violence in the upcoming elections.
While Nigeria today is still far from peace and shared prosperity, there are small faith communities growing and nurturing the vision and mindset of One Family Under God. Let us work together with them in our own communities.