By Naomi Yakawich
Over 8,000 Muslims and Christians gathered in a series of Peace Festivals conducted by Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Nigeria in collaboration with community stakeholders in Kaduna State on May 20 and 27. The festivals, held under the theme “Unity in Diversity,” were hosted in Mando and Maraban Rido as part of the One Family under God Campaign.
The One Family under God Campaign has gained traction since its launch in 2013 as a model for peaceful interfaith collaboration to end the crisis of violence taking place across Nigeria.
This grassroots, values-based approach to peacebuilding engages faith leaders to encourage them in taking the lead to promote cooperation and trust between diverse communities through training workshops, retreats, community projects and now festivals. The peace festivals provide a unique opportunity for tribes to display their traditions, engaging them in the process of raising awareness of the wide diversity within their communities.
Faith and community leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the peacebuilding model of the One Family under God Campaign at the festivals. District Head of Afaka, Rubun Zazzau, praised the positive impact the campaign has already had on his community, urging them to “not allow enemies of peace influence and distort the peace the area is known for.”
Unfortunately, with violent uprisings instigated by what has been called a “religious crisis,” these pockets of peaceful communities are not as common as the Nigerian faith leaders would hope. However, with the cooperation of not only diverse faith leaders, but also the local government and NGOs, those gathered at the peace festival were optimistic that dialogue between the groups will foster an understanding of the different cultures throughout Kaduna state.
Divisional Police Officer of the Kawo Division, Yakubu Abubakar Sabo, expressed his confidence that such collaboration will greatly assist Police in peacekeeping efforts, urging community members to help with information that can help curb the menace of extremist groups.
The festival provided opportunities for the many tribes to expand their understanding of each other and share their own backgrounds through cultural dances and performances culminating in a colorful display of diversity.
Northern Co-coordinators of GPF Nigeria, Reverend John J. Hayab and Sheikh Halliru A. Maraya expressed the importance of recognizing, respecting and appreciating the diverse cultures within the community to “ensure tolerance and harmonious relationships,” creating mass mobilization and momentum for community service projects that benefit the whole region across barriers of religion.
The Mando Peace Festival included a joint parade between members of Boys Brigade and the Jama’atul Nasril Islam (JNI) First Aid groups, as well as various cultural displays from different cultural troops residing in Mando, including Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ham/Jaba, Gbagyi, Ebira, Tiv, Kilba, and the Fulani and Igala tribes.
These pilot festivals are an important step in increasing community engagement in the process of peacebuilding throughout Kaduna State. GPF Nigeria looks forward to continuing current and new partnerships with faith leaders, local government and NGOs to continue the grassroots efforts through the One Family under God Campaign promoting social cohesion across Nigeria.