Interfaith Education and Peacebuilding in Northern Nigeria - Ezekiel Babagario

Setting – Kaduna City in northern Nigeria

Over the past thirty years, relationships between ethnic and religious groups in the northern regions of Nigeria have deteriorated. Conflict occurs on an almost daily basis between Christians and Muslims. Most Nigerians consider themselves to be very religious which often leads followers of the major religions to fight to protect the teachings of their faith. The high level of illiteracy and lack of interreligious understanding between the faith groups contributes to the propensity for violent clashes in the region.

 

The Research

This study examined an interfaith education (IFE) pilot program as a tool for peacebuilding in two parts of Kaduna City – one predominantly Christian and the other predominantly Muslim. The researcher analyzed the perceptions and experiences of students, religious education teachers and parents with the IFE pilot project that was introduced in their schools and communities. The study investigated how students embraced the IFE curriculum in schools and the reactions of youth to interfaith activities in the community – like visiting places of worship of the other religious group.  The study also collected information on the perceptions of religious leaders and parents about IFE programs.

 

An interesting part of the research methodology involved asking students in small focus groups to draw an ideal community or a picture of their homes or a place of worship before conflict.  Then the students were asked to turn the paper over and draw something they had witnessed during interreligious conflict in their communities.  Most students sketched their homes either on fire or destroyed.  Some portrayed perpetrators of the violence as standing with a weapon or even stabbing someone. The sketches were then used to stimulate discussion about interreligious conflict and its causes.

 

 

 

Outcomes

A majority of the participants indicated their support of IFE curriculum in schools and Community Peace Action Networks in the communities. The participants highlighted several problems that they felt contributed to the conflicts.  The use of the term “arni” or infidel was cited as often triggering violence because it is such a derogatory term.  Other participants pointed to poorly educated, untrained and unsupervised religious leaders who incite their followers. Participants also suggest that the IFE curriculum to be used outside of schools in order to reach the many out-of-school youth who are involved in the interfaith violence.

 

Ezekiel BabagarioThe Author

Ezekiel Babagario comes from Northern Nigeria and before studying at CIE he was an active participant in the programs of the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Kaduna. This research was undertaken for his doctoral dissertation which he expects to receive in May, 2019.