Mni — Participants trickled into the venue, most of them delayed by the rain while the organisers were busy putting finishing touches to the hall decoration. The women had organised interfaith activities in the past, including an interfaith dialogue and a book launch. The sensitisation seminar for key stakeholders which was held on July 5 2011at the Women’s Multipurpose Centre in Kaduna.
Planning for the event began after the post election violence that erupted in Kaduna state after the presidential election. The members of the Interfaith Council of Muslim and Christian Women’s Associations convened a meeting to discuss the crisis and how to contribute to peace building.
An air of sadness filled the room as they all told stories of their friends and relations who were either killed, maimed or lost property during the orgy of violence.
At the end of their discussion, they decided to organise two activities, a joint press conference and visits to the camps for displaced people in different towns in the state. After successfully implementing the two activities, they organised a sensitization seminar which was attended by policy makers and representatives of various civil society organizations in the state and beyond. The focus of the seminar was The Role of Women In Peace Building.
The event started with an opening prayer and the national anthem. The Co Chairmen of the Board of Trustees of the Council Reverend JJ Hayap and Professor Ibrahim NaIya Sada delivered goodwill messages. Reverend Hayap said seventy percent of church congregation are women and women are soft natured and known to be promoters of human rights. They therefore qualify to be peace makers. Professor Sada said women are known for their ability to shape the society being the nurturers of generations of humanity. They are the mothers and wives of policy makers.
In a welcome address, the Coordinator of the Council, Reverend Sister Kathleen Mc Garvey of Our Lady of Apostles OLA Kaduna said the presence of the participants was a confirmation that women have an indispensable contribution to make. She stressed that there is no peace without justice and women’s concerns and the root cause of poverty should be addressed. Sister Kathleen said the fact that violence is perpetuated in the name of religion makes it necessary to examine the level of justice or lack of it in our society.
Two traditional rulers who attended the event delivered good will messages. The Agwan Atyap, Dr Harrison Bungon congratulated the women for taking the initiative while the Agwan Bajju, Mallam Nuhu Bature who was one of the first guest to arrive at the venue, commended the women for their team work adding that their cooperation is worthy of emulation by all. The Chief Hostess of the event and wife of the Governor of Kaduna State, Her Excellency, Mrs. Amina Yakowa delivered a goodwill message. She was accompanied by a large entourage of accomplished women and wives of policy makers. In her speech, she commended the Interfaith Council for its peace building activities adding that women suffer more in during crises .She stressed that women who are mothers have the responsibility to inculcate the right values in their children. The First Lady noted that the post election violence was a sign of deterioration of values and a challenge we must confront.
The Mother of the Day was the wife of the Vice President, Her Excellency Hajiya Amina Sambo. She was ably represented by the wife of the Deputy Senate President, Mrs. Ike Ekweremadu. In her speech, she deplored the cases of violence recorded worldwide and congratulated the women for their vision and courage in undertaking peace building activities. She observed that women suffer more in crises situation because some are widowed, deprived of their sources of livelihood, raped and left on their own. Mrs Sambo said 40 communal conflicts were recorded in the country since 1999. About 800 people were killed and 33,000 displaced people were recorded in Kaduna State alone. She commended the government and the civil society organizations for their relief work. She frowned at manipulation of religion and underscored that fact that both Islam and Christianity preach peace, justice, love and forgiveness. She then declared the event open.
My humble self was invited to make a presentation. My paper was titled The Imperative of Women’s Participation in Interfaith Activities. The paper explored the various divides in our society; they include those between rich and poor, the leaders and the led, the old and the young, men and women, the capitalists and the socialists, politicians and non politicians. It identified interfaith dialogue is an important activity in a community with diversity embedded in its social and religious landscape. The divides have their origin in history, asymmetries of power, prejudice, stereotypes, bad governance, poverty, ignorance, envy, injustice, vested interests and elite manipulation– including religious leaders. Religion is the most common and effective platform for addressing the divides whatever their origin, because the majority of Nigerians are religious and they listen to what faith leaders tell them. Unfortunately for us the divide in Kaduna is a mix of several factors and the key divides are ethnic and socioeconomic and the religious dimension is only added to it to make mileage out of the crises.
The paper underscored the fact that Islam and Christianity are religions of peace and cited the various injunctions on peaceful co existence from the Quran and Bible. Given these injunctions from the two major religions, the paper urged Muslims and Christians to promote peace through interfaith dialogue and joint activities. They must stress our commonalities, being two of the Abrahamic religions.
The paper examined the role of women in peace and highlighted the fact that women constitute half of humanity and have a critical role to play in promoting peace at the interfaith level and outside it. The paper made observations and ended with recommendations. ‘Sustainable peace can only be achieved if we consider the following: The people of Kaduna must be ready for frank and truthful dialogue; hate promoters and preachers must be identified and disciplined according to the law of the land. The post election crisis is only a tip of the iceberg of poverty, youth unemployment, suppression of political dissent and bad governance that have compromised security and obstructed development.’
Government must make good governance a priority. The security lapses that enforced selective curfew in the state and made the genocide in southern Kaduna possible should be investigated. Perpetrators of the crimes should be identified and punished to serve as a deterrent to others. Government must bring an end to impunity. Those who lost relations and property should be compensated.
The Council can contribute to peace and building bridges of understanding by embarking on establishing a sustainable structure, designing and implementing grassroots peace building initiatives, networking with NIREC and other bodies to leverage resources, documenting and replicating best practices.
The two coordinators of the Interfaith Council Mrs Comfort Fearon and Hajiya Amina Kazaure made presentations on the aims and objectives of the Council. The Council comprise leaders and members of women’s faith groups in Kaduna consisting of both Muslims and Christians. The Council’s activities include promoting peace and understanding through inter religious dialogue, capacity building through workshops. Exploring women’s common concerns and working with the media to amplify peace messages.
(allafrica.com / 07.07.2011)