Over the past 40 years, Nigeria has been affected by many waves of religious and ethnic conflict. This religious intolerance comes from a growing rift between the country’s two primary religions, Christianity and Islam. In some areas of the country, these violent conflicts are severe enough to lead to mass killings. This has been especially true with the extremist group Boko Haram.
After years of witnessing the horrible state of religious understanding, a group of YES alumni took it upon themselves to educate their community on religious differences and similarities. The group found that most religious intolerance came from a place of ignorance. The Christians didn’t accept the Muslims because they had many misconceptions about them, and vice versa.
One of the alumni responsible for facilitating the interfaith project, Joseph Maicibi said,
“I was able to identify a lot of misinformation brought up by our poor listening ability…Such misinformation had paved way to, and is still, used in political manipulation of our faith traditions.”
Using a similar program from a YES training workshop in Morocco as inspiration, the group of five alumni created the Interfaith Harmony Workshop. They invited a group of five Muslims and six Christians to engage in conversations about religion. This conversation began with prayers and icebreakers designed to make everyone feel safe and welcome. After getting to know one another, the group plunged into an analysis of each religion, how they are alike and how they are different.
At the end of the workshop both Christian and Muslim participants walked away feeling like they knew more about the other religion. One participant named Fatima responded saying,
“It was very enlightening, learning about other cultures. It taught me so much about acceptance.”
In the future, the group hopes to host more interfaith dialogues but with even larger groups. To learn more about the Global Grants and scholarships program that makes projects like this possible visit https://iris-center.org/alumni-grants-and-scholarships/.