Omnia inter-faith solution to religious crises
Sir: It is no more news that Nigeria’s Northeast and Northwest have become a hotbed of religious crises, epic-centre of banditry, kidnappings and wanton killings. Thousands of residents have also become Internally- Displaced Persons (IDPs). What is new and heart-gladdening is the current activities and efforts of interfaith peacemakers to stem the tide and rebuild the region gradually.
To actualise this dream, Omnia’s Institute for Contextual Leadership has trained over 3,500 peacemakers in the Northeast and Northwest regions. The group has also organised the peacemakers into 94 Interfaith Peacemaker Teams (IP Teams). The initiative began in 2017 to counter religious extremism, religion-based oppression, domination and violence.
The IPteams, which consist of imams and pastors, demonstrate that when actors in the two dominant religions: Islam and Christianity, collaborate, the public perception could change. It could reduce extremism, conflict, and lead to the affirmation of religious pluralism. This collaboration of interfaith leaders has further reduced space for extremist groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) to recruit young residents in the Northeast.
Again, the IP teams have played significant roles through empowerment programmmes. They have provided antidotes to poverty, as young Nigerians have been introduced to entrepreneurial opportunities through skills acquisition in tailoring, hairdressing, among other vocations.
In further pursuit of peace in the region, Omnia IP teams recently began training peacemakers in Maiduguri, a city almost wrecked by the Boko Haram insurgency. No fewer than 75 Christian and Muslim leaders were trained by the group’s National Coordinator for Nigeria, Revd. Abare Kallah.
This came against the backdrop of successes recorded in Gombe in 2017 when the trained IP teams averted religious implosions and resolved intractable conflicts.
Meanwhile, the people of Maiduguri, no doubt, have disproportionately suffered from Boko Haram violence and need to quickly rebuild their facilities and infrastructure.
Each IP-team has about 20 religious leaders – clergy and lay, women and men, some leading congregations of 100 and others over 1,000. Here are some examples of IP team effectiveness and interventions that have saved lives and averted extremists’ religious violence:
Recently, the traditional ruler of Tangale, Mai Tangale in Gombe died. A Christian ruler in a majority Christian dominated area. A revolt greeted the governor’s appointee to serve in the area. The IP team intervened in the protest. It held the line against violence. Another IP Team was mobilised to repair bridges, roads, school buildings, and assisted to achieve peace in the area. In six villages in Gombe, the IP team dug deep wells and provided safe drinking water.
During his recent coronation, the Emir of Funkaye in Gombe, Alhaji Muazu Mohammed Kwaryanga II attributed his success to the Omnia training and spoke passionately of the timely intervention of the Interfaith Peacemaker Teams in his domain.
Omnia’s Interfaith Peacemaker Teams are doing noble works in the Northeast and Northwest regions of the country. Time will tell, whether their model is worthy of emulation on peace and conflict resolution.
• Abare Kallah wrote from Omnia Institute for Contextual Leadership and can be reached on www.omnialeadership.org.