Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nigerian Brethren hold Interfaith Conference on Peaceful Coexistence.

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) recently held an Interfaith Conference on Peaceful Coexistence at its headquarters in Kwarhi. The conference happened to fall immediately after violence broke out in the city of Jos, where at least two EYN ministers were killed. Following is a report from Nathan and Jennifer Hosler, Church of the Brethren mission workers serving with EYN:

"Monday, Jan. 11: visited an Islamic Secondary school in Jos. Thursday, Jan. 14: traveled from Jos to Kwarhi. Sunday, Jan. 17: fighting broke out in Jos. Wednesday, Jan. 20: participated in an interfaith conference on peaceful coexistence.

"In the span of just over a week, we participated in two peace initiatives and narrowly missed the Jos crisis and corresponding 24-hour curfew. This highlights two things: peace is tenuous and peace work is of necessity.

"Finding out what happened after a crisis is a difficult task. Causes of such conflicts are complicated to determine and often distorted as they are conveyed through communities. Imagine a game of ‘Telephone’ in which participants may not like or agree with what they are hearing and repeating. When people are convinced that all Christians are like this or that all Muslims are like that, they are more likely to distort or conveniently overlook certain factual details. One such detail is that at the end of the crisis, both Christians and Muslims were hurt.

"As violence escalated, calmed, and re-escalated, we began our peace conference. Someone asked, ‘How can we have a peace conference while Jos is burning?’ The EYN Peace Coordinator replied, ‘A doctor doesn’t stop treating someone when they get sick.... We continue to treat them and pray that God will heal them.’ With this hope and goal we proceeded with the conference.

"The conference was held at the convention center adjacent to EYN headquarters and was attended by approximately 50 participants. The participants were from EYN, Christians from the government and Christian organizations, Muslims from the government and Muslim organizations, a Muslim professor of Islamic studies and Arabic from the University of Maiduguri, two Muslim school teachers, two Church of the Brethren workcampers Roger and Mim Eberly, and fraternal workers from the Church of the Brethren and Mission 21.

"Two presenters (one Christian and one Muslim) from Jos were unable to attend because of the crisis. While leaving Jos, their car was attacked. Although they were not injured, their car was damaged and they were unable to attend.

"Presenters gave talks on various elements of peaceful coexistence. The conference was envisioned as a way to build trust between communities, as a forum to discuss issues surrounding inter-religious coexistence, and as a platform on which to build future initiatives. It was not merely a time to discuss nice ideas but a beginning point for creative peace work between Muslim and Christian communities. In this vein, Jennifer presented a paper on trauma healing for which she received very positive feedback. Many participants expressed their eagerness to implement the ideas and tools of trauma healing into their work.

"While the conference was deemed a success, it is only a starting point for future relationships and initiatives. One such relationship was between us and two Muslim school teachers. One of the first things they said after meeting us was, ‘You must come to visit us at our school.’ We hope to take up the invitation soon."

Source: 2/25/2010 Newsline

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