It’s been a month, and in Nigeria over 200 mothers are still without their daughters who were taken by individuals consumed with the need to differentiate and divide rather than unite and heal. An estimated 1,200 have died in the conflict with Boko Haram, the extremist Muslim group in Nigeria, and the UNHCR estimates over 12,000 have been displaced. The numbers grow daily.
Our world, our history are stained by such individuals who use religious ideology, political platforms, and economic interests to pit brother against sister. Our history continues as a vicious cycle of hate, pain and destruction. In the end – there are no winners, only losers.
We must end this cycle. We have to break the lies and terminate the hate. These girls are victims of a larger, more deeply rooted cause. Extremism. Exclusivism. Separatism. Such divisive ideologies will only continue to fuel conflicts and destroy our future – in Nigeria, in Kenya, in Ireland, the United States, the list is long.
Global Peace Foundation is seeking new ways to bring like-minded parties together to combat extremism. Its approach is unique. It overcomes barriers by focusing on what intrinsically unites us. We all laugh and cry in the same language. We share a common understanding of what makes a life noble – sacrifice, love, compassion, family, service, faith…
While religious expressions are vastly different, we share similar values, we are bound to one another as a family. And perhaps that is where we should focus our energy.
I recall during the Global Peace Convention 2013, the twins of Kaduna State in Nigeria, Sheik Maraya and Rev. Hayab shared their moving story. Rev. Hayab, a Christian said, “I find in Maraya a man who loves God and I love him and am proud of him.” Sheik Maraya, a Muslim said, “When I first met Rev. Habib my first thought was that I have met someone from my original family, the family of Adam and Eve.” He went on explain, “The first thing expected as a Muslim is that whenever you meet another human, if younger than you, you consider him a younger brother or sister.”
The two are clear, “Saying negative things about Christians or Muslims is not an education; it is an incitement.” According to Rev. Hayab, the two men have consciously chosen to use their “God-given responsibility for good.”
“The first thing expected as a Muslim is that whenever you meet another human, if younger than you, you consider him a younger brother or sister.”
I believe that this is GPF’s formula for countering extremism. It calls men and women of faith, educators, and parents, community leaders, young leaders, to teach the noble, essential values of their spiritual traditions – through education, through experience.
Each of us in our own capacity can start this cultural shift in our families, communities, society and world. We must begin to educate our children to be aware of their connection to this vast and diverse global family. We must teach our children basic shared values, like we must do unto others as we would have done unto us.
The time is now to create a cultural change, a movement within ourselves and our communities that says we can no longer stand and watch idly while others use hate to further their causes at the expense of others. And we will no longer tolerate the destruction of our human family.
Only then, will we be able to prevent such tragedies, rather than treat the heartbreak in the aftermath.
We are one family under God; we are of one blood; we are tied to one another. Each of us in our own capacity can begin, through dialogue, exchange, exposure and immersion; we can tear down the walls built to separate brick by brick. Then will we be able to secure a safe world for all our girls and boys.
by M.C.I. – a blogger for the Global Peace Foundation