You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
—R. Buckminster Fuller
We all know that building peace from the ground up is not easy. All the hot and cold conflict zones that exist around that world attest to this and, tragically, even today we know that violence can erupt just about anywhere.
In Southern Kaduna in Nigeria, one of the most diverse states in all of Nigeria, 2016, and 2017 was particularly fraught times. There were killings, reprisals, destruction of property and fear, anger, and unrest. And most of all, the people were tired of the conflict.
It was late in 2017 that, through connections that had heard of our work with the One Family Under God campaign in other parts of Kaduna state, the GPF Nigeria team began to engage with communities in Southern Kaduna. Through the long and arduous process of dialogue with different groups, negotiations, and agreements, the communities began to form a dialogue platform that they dubbed the “Southern Kaduna Peace and Reconciliation Committee.”
This committee is made up of Muslim and Christian representatives to include youth, faith, women, and traditional leaders of different tribes and has been critical in handling delicate situations that have plagued Southern Kaduna for months.
In a review of data collected by Crisis Watch, an organization that tracks the global conflict, we were able to ascertain some of the results of the work with the Southern Kaduna Peace and Reconciliation Committee.
In the 18 months leading up to the formation of SKPRC and the training and programs the GPF Nigeria team provided for them, killings in Southern Kaduna state made up 54% of the total number of killings in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria. And yet, in 18 months after the GPF intervention, even while there was a 22% increase of killings as a whole, the number of killings in Southern Kaduna dramatically dropped to make up only 1% of the total number of killings.
These numbers are just one of the many remarkable results that we are beginning to see in Southern Kaduna. Increased dialogue and engagement between the community leaders and security agencies resulted in non-violent local elections and local communities have taken up the call to own the vision of One Family Under God for themselves, celebrating peace through a multi-cultural celebration of the International Day of Peace in 2019.
Most recently, with the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic at its peak, violence erupted in the villages of Gonan Rogo, Makyali, Agwala, Ungwan Modi, and Ungwan Rana. Global Peace Foundation, Nigeria quickly began to engage the community. Always at the forefront, Rev. Hayab and Sheik Maraya, the “Kaduna Twins,” came together with those who took shelter in the refugee camps, mourning with the community in the loss of lives and destruction of property, distributing much-needed aid and encouraging resilience, fortitude, and the understanding of a larger vision for peace as “One Family Under God,”
In a follow up to this program, Christian and Muslim youth from the affected areas were brought together in a round table discussion to pursue solutions to bring lasting peace to the wider community. The youths were tasked to spread the same message of peace to their local communities and encouraged them to pursue dialogue and peacebuilding rather than violence and revenge.
Models like this one allow us to test the validity and efficacy of our approach. The GPF model in Nigeria has worked in different contexts to create a shared understanding between groups even in the aftermath of violent conflict. This same model has and can be applied to other contexts. The focus on universal principles and shared values make it possible to replicate the GPF peacebuilding and community-building approach in countries as far apart as and as varied as the United States, Mongolia, Indonesia, Korea, Paraguay, Tanzania and beyond.