Nigerian Brethren Make Progress on Interfaith Peace Work

New additions of books and resources are displayed at the peace library at Kulp Bible College in Nigeria. The peace library has been made possible through the initiative of Nathan and Jennifer Hosler and donations from US Brethren.

Following is the September update from Nathan and Jennifer Hosler, Church of the Brethren peace and reconciliation workers with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). They work at EYN’s Kulp Bible College near Mubi in northeastern Nigeria:

Since June 2010, a group of Muslims and Christians have been meeting together as an interfaith peace planning group under the name CAMPI, or Christians and Muslims for Peacebuilding Initiatives. The goal of CAMPI is to bring together peace-minded Muslims and Christians in the Mubi area to plan and implement projects that promote understanding and harmony between the two religious groups.

Preparation on the first project began a year ago, with preparation, hurdles, and obstacles including illness, prohibitive schedules, the elections and subsequent violence in April, and religious observances such as Easter and Ramadan. We are happy to say that that project–an intergroup dialogue and conflict resolution training for imams and pastors–has finally begun.

We arrived back in Nigeria just at the start of Ramadan, the month of fasting that Muslims observe every year as one of five crucial tenets of their faith. Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours of Ramadan and also prepare meals to break the fast each evening. Due to this, we held off for the month of August and then quickly gathered the interfaith planning group together after the end of Ramadan.

Our first intergroup dialogue session brought three imams and three pastors together in Mubi on Sept. 10. CAMPI members introduced themselves, as did the imams and pastors. Our Muslim and Christian facilitators re-explained the purpose of the group and the need to increases ties and understanding between religious leaders (this was discussed earlier during the recruitment of the imams and pastors).

Each meeting includes a resource person’s mini-tutorial on conflict and peace, followed by group discussion. The Sept. 10 meeting included an overview of conflict and peace, broadly understood. Conflict is a normal part of life and can be either good or bad, depending on how people handle it. Peace is not simply “no violence” but also includes the presence of good relationships, health, and well-being. Peace is food to eat, clean water, health care for all, children attending quality schools, and the ability for people to provide for their families. Peace is diverse groups of people trying to understand each other’s similarities and differences, respecting the differences, and living alongside each other cooperatively.

We are encouraged by the discussions and openness present in the first meeting and also in the second, held Sept. 24. Two resource persons (a Christian man and a Muslim woman) presented on Christian and Islamic scriptures for peace. There was engaging dialogue on religious understandings of “Who is our neighbor?” One Christian participant shared how he and his Muslim neighbor share a wall and a well. The Muslim family crosses into his compound every day because of the water available in the Christian household. According to the participant, a visitor to their households would not know whose children are whose because of how the two families intermingle. We are thankful for the openness of participants to share stories such as this.

Kulp Bible College held its first event to mark the International Day of Prayer for Peace on Sept. 21. Three surrounding churches were invited to attend a prayer service hosted by KBC Chapel, which included presentations from the Women’s Fellowship (ZME–Zumuntar Matan a Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria) at KBC and the KBC Peace Club. The Peace Club performed a drama that highlighted ongoing conflicts in the world, dramatizing the problem of leaders clinging to power, and terrorist attacks. They illustrated that violence is the wrong way to handle problems and that prayer in addition to action is a necessary ingredient to achieving peace.

— In their September newsletter, the Hoslers announced that after two years in Nigeria they plan to return to the US on Dec. 15. They also shared prayer requests for the Interfaith Dialogue Group, for the KBC Peace Club, for their work in Nigeria to finish on strong note, for EYN and its president Samuel D. Dali, and for creative, energetic, and skilled Nigerian staff to join the Peace Program coordinated by Toma H. Ragnjiya.