Religious groups unite to meet COVID-19 challenges in divided Kaduna, Nigeria

By Mohammed Ibrahim

Dr. Shu’aibu Shinkafi knew the risks he faced when he and his predominantly Muslim group recently traveled into the Christian-dominated community of Sabon Tasha in Kaduna State, Nigeria. There, despite the tension between faith-based groups after years of ethno-religious conflict, Shinkafi met with a Christian pastor to discuss how to collectively face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities.

In Kaduna State, Muslim communities predominantly live in northern part of the state, while Christian families populate the southern areas but since the outbreak of COVID-19 groups from both sides of the geographic and religious divide have joined to educate residents across Kaduna on ways to prevent the spread of the virus.

Despite their differences, groups like Shinkafi's All Nigerian Project 23 have visited each other to address residents on preventive measures as well as to donate food items to vulnerable community members hit hard by a movement restriction order imposed by the state government.

Pastor Yuhana Buru, founder of Peaceful Revival and Reconciliation Foundation of Nigeria, said his congregation decided to join forces with Muslim neighbors because the virus respects "no religion or tribe".

"Seeing my‎ Muslim brothers coming to [metaphorically] join hands with me to promote peace in our communities as well as sensitizing our people against Covid-19 is a welcome development," Buru said.

"COVID-19 has united us to fight against it through educating our people."

Buru (pictured right) now uses social media platforms, such as Facebook, to live steam church services and send daily messages in English and in a local dialect to share health advice during the pandemic.

"I received many ‎favorable responses from within and outside Nigeria," he said.

"So we are doing very well as an interfaith [group], and we always tell Muslims to educate Christians and let Christians also educate Muslims because this will further unite us as a people."

"As Muslims and Christians we need to unite as one to pray against this pandemic and to ask God to clear it from our communities and the world at large," Shinkafi said. We also need to take preventive measures ‎to protect ourselves from Coronavirus."

Shinkafi said they were aware of Buru's commitment to peace in communities affected by crisis which is what prompted them to work together.

"So, we are here to reach out to members of the church, particularly widows whose husbands were killed in previous crisis to offer our little assistance with bags of rice to enable them to feed [their children]," he said.

Asabe Danladi, a Christian widow, said she was pleased to see Muslim and Christian groups helping each other to educate residents.

"We were very much surprised to receive such a gesture from our Muslim neighbors and we are happy to see our pastor and Muslims working together to enlighten us on preventive measures," she said.

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