KAICIID International Dialogue Centre recently conducted training workshop in Abuja for both Christian and Muslim leaders to promote inter-faith dialogue among Nigeria’s two religions. MUSA SIMON REEF reports on the event and what participants achieved at the training

The International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) in collaboration with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, the Interfaith Mediation Centre and the Kukah Centre recently held a two-day training for community and religious leaders in conflict resolution and the need to embrace dialogue in resolving tensions and crises associated with interfaith. Participants at the workshop were mainly drawn from the recently established Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) that was supported by KAICIID to promote dialogue and address violence in the name of religion in Nigeria.

The training sessions for interfaith dialogue training took place at the Rock View (Classic) Hotel in Abuja, and had in attendance participants from the nation’s two religions: Christianity and Islam. The essence of the training was aimed at deepening strategies and focusing on re-alignment of forces towards interfaith unity among religious adherents.

The IDFP, a forum comprising 100 members from both Islam and Christianity on an equal representation, has become a focal platform mandated with the responsibility of promoting inter-religious peace and harmony among adherents of  Nigeria’s two religions. The training, according to Marlen Rabl, Team Assistant of the Programmes Department of KAICIID, was aimed at giving religious representatives additional skills and communication expertise for peace and conflict resolution.

According to her, considering the occasional violent eruption of conflicts based on religious fault lines of the country, the training programme by the International Dialogue Centre was intended to support conflict resolution in the country and build their capacity in engaging in inter-religious dialogue for peace building in country.

“The Nigerian society is so diverse and so rich and we firmly believe that Muslims and Christians who make up half and half of the population of the country. If they relate together and work together, there can be huge step forward for the Nigerian society towards peace, towards social cohesion and to create a country where people can be secured and feel comfortable about,” Rabl said.

Joseph Tanko Atang, Project Expert Consultant Nigeria, KAICIID Programmes Department, Joseph Tanko Atang, declared that the idea behind the training is “to bring Muslims and Christians together so that Christians and Muslims can dialogue on interfaith issues such as interfaith crisis and find a solution resolving them. The training also involved peace building, and conflict resolution. Although, not all of them were trained in conflict resolution, but all were taught on conflict resolution and management.

“We are teaching them conflict resolution essentially, but you know there are many things in conflict resolution and mechanism for conflict resolution. For now, we are teaching conflict sensitive communication. We are teaching them the art of communication in such a way that you do not create conflict and you do not exacerbate conflict. We are teaching them communication in such a way that they would be able to maintain the peace.”

According to him, “Giving the rate at which the media industry is growing, print and electronic media to start with, there are many avenues people can express themselves and they have a lot of avenues through which their voices can be hear and it is growing very fast.

“We also have the social media which is even growing much more than the regular media and that is even more dangerous because everybody is his own reporter and is his own editor. So we are teaching them how to be careful and how to communicate, we are teaching them to be careful about what they say when they are preaching.”

On whether KAICIID has a review mechanism to review the activities of inter-faith in Nigeria, he said, “The only mechanism we have right now is this platform that we set up. The only platform that we now have is the one that has 50 Christians and 50 Muslims, comprising high class religious people. This platform is actually called the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP), there are basically two patrons- The CAN President and the Sultan of Sokoto. There is the board of trustee that has people like Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Shehu of Borno and other distinguished personalities.”

On how the IDFP intends to achieve its mandate of promoting interfaith dialogue in Nigeria, Atang said the Central Coordinating Council of the IDFP is made up of an Executive Committee. All these people, according to the KAICIID Country Expert, apart from being leaders in their churches and mosques, they also have their own Interfaith Religious Dialogue- interfaith platforms.

“They are all from Nigeria, so they give us feedback, we get feelers from them, the executive committee meets every month, the Central Coordinating Council meets quarterly, and the General Assembly meets once every year to get feelers on the impacts of our works in promoting interfaith peace. Apart from that, there are all kinds of communication we are engaged with them. KAICIID also give them small grant for their private interfaith organization to be carrying out their interfaith work. So we have that network and we use it also as a monitoring mechanism,” Atang said.

Ifeanyi Richard, Co-Secretary of the CCC, Ifeanyi Richards, told Forefront that the training is basically on how to embrace tolerance and exploring means of attaining mutual harmony among adherents of the nation’s major two religions, adding, “The training also, educate members on conflict management, the advantages we have on conflict management because when you manage conflict, you save live, and when you save live there is peaceful coexistence.

“I have been educated; I have been enlightened, particularly on the role of religious leaders in maintaining peace in Nigeria. At least, I am sure by the time we all return back to our various organizations; we would be able to pass down the training to members of our constituencies in the zones, states and local government areas.”

According to Mustapha Balogun, who is of the National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations (NACOMYO), the training afforded participants of the opportunity to learn about conflict management and how to live peacefully with members of other faith.

“I am from Lagos state and you know in the south west we live together and inter-marry, we don’t really have much problem regarding religion. But this training workshop has really educated us more on how to interrelate and live in harmony with one another irrespective of religious belief,” he said.

Dominic Adeiza, a Reverend father, opines, “The training is practicable; it appeals to their culture, their tradition, and their customs. It’s not cut and paste. It goes back to what you already know and use and how you can use it effectively, as well as how to recognise the foundations from which crises emerge.”  

According to Rukaiyat Mikal’il, who is the Finance Secretary of the Executive Committee of the CCC, said, “I have learned so many things that I never knew, and the things I already knew were explored in a new way. The experience will help me in the long run in developing more projects and to build a strong structure of interdependence and coexistence in my community.”

Safiya Ajayi from Women in Da’awah notes: “The training has given me an insight into how we can do interfaith work with a better approach and better methodology. All that I have learned here will impact positively my work. I will probably have to go back to the drawing board to use the knowledge acquired here to improve our programming.”

There is no doubt that the two-day training of the 25 Christian and Muslim religious leaders sharpened their skills at promoting dialogue and peaceful. With the capacity of participants being enhanced, the prospects for inter-religious dialogue and promoting conflict resolution and reconciliation have become realisable in no distant future.

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