The transformative power of engaging with people from different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences is undeniable. When we meet other members of our one human family, we can change our minds, our attitudes and behaviors. On an everyday, ongoing basis, this kind of change can then lead to changes in the community, changes to institutions, business and more.
The Chairman of the Global Peace Foundation, Dr. Hyun Jin P. Moon, outlines the efforts of the organization in this way at the Global Peace Convention 2014 in Paraguay:
“When nations engage in issues of transforming a nation in poverty, they do everything in reverse. They start with the economic, then interfere with political, then catch up to the social side as an afterthought. The GPF model has done the exact opposite – it started with the social side. The importance of civic and NGO engagement to create national transformation is critical. It starts with social engagement that builds reformation and transformation, building the foundation for economic development.”
A simple formula, but we can see it in other moments of great social change in history, from the Indian independence movement, South African anti-apartheid movement, the Abolitionist and Civil Rights Movements in the United States that gave way towards new and previously unimaginable social change. A study of history shows that change that transformed societies for the better were often – or possibly always – preceded by “spiritual awakenings” wherein a rise in the consciousness of the people worked to reform the very cultural landscape.
Nigeria: A Case Study of Social Transformation
In the Global Peace Foundation’s work with this approach in Nigeria, a relatively small team of dedicated people are working to spread this message and strategy to help bring about social change on the grassroots level.
Following a period of violence and destruction in Southern Kaduna between natives and Fulani tribes people in 2016, GPF Nigeria began a process in 2017 to negotiate two ceasefire agreements between the local Fulanis and the natives. This then led the team to begin to a focused engagement with one particular community, Kaninkon, to build a model from which others could similarly learn the process of peacebuilding and reconciliation.
Yet all of these thing—from ceasefires and reconciliation—while desirable in and of themselves, are not the end goal but rather milestones on a continuum aimed to bringing not only peace but development into these communities. As the community leaders build trust and commitment together to rebuild their community, tolerance moved towards, respect and respect edged towards active cooperation. What comes next remains to be seen but as of early 2018, the Kaninkon community has been taking steps to celebrate their first annual Community Peace Festival to celebrate the milestones and to draw more popular support for all their efforts thus far.
Participants from recent local programs in Kaninkon community reflected on their experience with the capacity building and community empowerment programming reflecting a change in attitudes towards “the other” in ways that offered glimpses of a future wherein families that lived in fear and hate might learn hope, forgiveness and love to even those they viewed as their enemies.
Comfort Simon, of Goska, shared:
“What happened between us and the Fulani is painful, and I had resolved never again to love or have anything to do with them, because, I lost my home and property completely during the crises. But, the teachings I heard today has given me strength, and now, anywhere I see a Fulani person even if such a person is in trouble, I will be willing to lend a helping hand if I can.”
Victoria Yusuf, of Gerti, reflected:
“Seriously before today, I was still very bitter concerning what happened and the lack of peace in Kaninkon, but, with the teachings today, I understand that we are all one, both Christians and Muslims and we are supposed to put our heads together to ensure the progress of our lives.”
Ishiyaku Zamani, youth leader of Dangoma Community reported:
“I am so glad to be part of this training because of its impact as such we especially the youth leaders must take it upon ourselves to cascade it to our various communities considering the fact that the situation was bad before but as a result of this message, things have changed. As youth, we are very happy about the training and we promise that henceforth, this change would continue to reflect in our daily lives for peaceful coexistence.”
Moreover, in light of the critical role faith leaders play in their communities, the changes reflected by local native and Fulani faith leaders demonstrate what is possible when people come together with a common vision.
Pastor and PDP Chairman, Pius Adamu of Kaninkon ward shared:
“I agreed that we are one family under God and such, some time back one of the political elites brought bags of fertilizer to me to distribute to the Pastors but I challenged myself to realize the need to include the chief Imam of Dangoma because we are serving one God and if I give only pastors, I am not just to myself. In fact, I was able to do so because of the complete change in my life as a result of the training of “One Family Under God” campaign.”
Imam Mohammed Salihu Baye, Chief Imam Izala Mosque in Kaninkon reports:
“I am very happy about this reconciliation. I am also grateful to this organization that has been spreading the message of “One Family under God”, they have done their part, and all that is left is ours.”
Rev. Adamu Chawai, of ECWA in Kaninkon, noted:
“The reconciliation is very important because for you to have development there has to be peace.”
This work is still in its infancy in Nigeria as well as other parts of the world. Undoubtedly, there are many hard lessons and challenges to be learned along the way. Nevertheless, in first dreaming, together, the impossible dreams of peace and prosperity for all, we can imagine creative ways to do this in each of the countries that we work in.
Come join us in this work. Find out how you can help make a difference in Nigeria.