Can Interfaith Peacebuilding Work? The case of Kaduna, Nigeria
Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with 185 million people. Its two leading religions are Christianity and Islam, and good relations between followers of these two religions are critical for peace in Nigeria. Communities in Kaduna State, Nigeria, however, have witnessed ethno-religious conflict in recent years, with Muslim-Christian relations severely damaged as a result. But one group is working to mend these divisions.
The Peaceful Revival Foundation of Nigeria has made strides in southern Kaduna, bringing different religious and ethnic factions together.
"Peace Revival, for the past 5 years - 6 years now, has been going to southern Kaduna, trying to talk to people, meeting with traditional rulers, meeting with community leaders, and meeting with ethnic groups and other NGOs, talking to them, trying to source our problem," said Pastor Yohanna Buru, founder of the Peaceful Revival Foundation.
"The cause of [conflict] is that some feel they are marginalized in southern Kaduna," Pastor Buru said.
"Mainly most of the Christians there, or the traditionalists there, or the people who claim to be the indigenes of that land," he said.
"And possibly there's no proper communication - or relationship - between the powerful in Kaduna and the government of today, or the people of northern Kaduna, so these are the contributing factors."
Justice is a huge concern in the region, and acts of retaliation have sparked conflict.
"Between the government, society, Muslim or Christian - whatever - there is injustice there," said Mohammed Abdullahi Gambo, a Fulani Muslim from the region.
"When we have justice, when we have justice there's no more conflict," Mr Gambo said.
Pastor Buru and his team encourage resolutions using dialogue and peaceful negotiation.
"We have been able to reach out to some of the traditional rulers in southern Kaduna, and discuss a lot with them, and try to negotiate for a better solution on how to be in peaceful co-existence with each other," said Maryam Abubakar, a Fulani Muslim working with the foundation.
"To Muslim and Christians, they should sit down and talk, and they should bring in the traditionalists," Pastor Buru said.
"The moment you sit with the communities there, it has helped in peacebuilding - they open up, they tell you their problems, and maybe they themselves proffer a solution."
Participant Aliyu Mohammed said the Muslim community hold Pastor Yohanna Buru in high esteem because of his peacebuilding work in the area.
“We believe there is the need for other interfaith groups to emulate him in promoting peaceful co-existence in the area,” Mr Mohammed said.
“He actually understood the terrain very well because he is also from the area and that has helped him in bringing all aggrieved parties on same table to dialogue," he said.
"Without peace in [this] environment, we can't go forward, we can't forge ahead," said Pastor Joel Vigo, a Christian leader in the area.
"Without peace, you can't work, or look for something to eat. But when there is peace, life will be ok," said Pastor Vigo.
"Let us understand one another, so that there will be peaceful co-existence between the traditionalists, the Christian, the Muslim, the youths, and the old," said Reverend Ishaku, a Christian leader.