Peacemakers Delegation to Nigeria Draws to a Close

After a week packed full of seminars, media events, and meetings with political, religious, and traditional leaders, the Peacemakers In Action Network Delegation to Nigeria wrapped up its activities on December 11. Yehezkel, Friar Ivo, and Azi have returned home, travel-weary but invigorated by their experience. Pastor James and Imam Ashafa remain in Nigeria, and are using the Delegation’s work as a springboard to promote peace and interreligious understanding during the upcoming elections and beyond.

A full report detailing the activities and findings of the Peacemakers Delegation to Nigeria is in production, but in the meantime, here are some points of interest (you can also check out photographs in Azi's album):
As this delegation has demonstrated, the Peacemakers in Action are able to open doors for each other through collaboration. The presence of international Peacemakers representing the three Abrahamic traditions lent weight to the work that Ashafa and James are pursuing. This created opportunities for Pastor James and Imam Ashafa to access new and influential contacts in the Nigerian government, diplomatic community, and media. Going forward, the Pastor and the Imam, along with their colleagues at the Interfaith Mediation Centre, will be able to work through these relationships to realize their goal of maintaining peace during the presidential and parliamentary elections early in 2011, and in fostering religious pluralism and respect in Nigeria.
Additionally, in the course of sharing lessons from their work, Yehezkel, Ivo, and Azi (seen above, between meetings) all found fresh opportunities for future collaboration. These connections may bring any one of them back to Nigeria in the future, or bring a local Nigerian contact overseas to work in a different context along-side one of the Peacemakers.
The Delegation presented the Peacemakers in Action Statement of Solidarity with The Nigerian People in various cities around Nigeria. The document was well-received by the public, and has attracted new partnerships with embassies for translation into local languages and distribution. The embassies plan to circulate the statement and ask citizens to sign it. In this way, the Statement of Solidarity will live on as a tool in discouraging violence related to upcoming elections and promoting unity and peace in Nigeria.
We plan to produce more materials related to the work done in Nigeria, so please keep checking our blog if this is of interest to you. Or better yet, subscribe to our blog feed!


Blogging from the 2010 Nigeria Delegation: In Pictures

We spoke with our Peacemaker Yehezkel Landau this morning. Yehezkel reports that the work in Nigeria is exhausting, but truly inspiring. Unfortunately, the first-person account prepared last night by our Peacemakers was lost somewhere in the digital divide. They continue to deal with technological difficulties; however, their work continues unimpeded. Today we have a selection of pictures to share with you from a seminar delivered by the Peacemakers.

Friar Ivo talks with Azhar Hussain.

Friar Ivo addresses seminar participants.

Yehezkel Landau blows the shofar.

Azhar Hussain addresses the seminar participants.

The audience.


Blogging from the 2010 Nigeria Delegation: Day Three

Five of our Peacemakers in Action gather in Nigeria this week to call on the country to hold fair, peaceful and respectful elections and to urge religious leaders to avert conflict in their country. They'll be sending us dispatches. Here's the most recent update, from Israeli/Palestinian Peacemaker Yehezkel Landau:

Our meetings have gone very well.  We gave the Statement of Solidarity to key religious and political leaders.  A program of two days seems like a week – James and Ashafa have kept us productively busy.  We are enjoying the warm sunshine and the warmth of the people.

A highlight for me was kindling the Chanukah candles with my Christian and Muslim brothers in my hotel here in Abuja.  We are now leaving for Jos.  Shalom to everyone there, Yehezkel

Blogging from the 2010 Nigeria Delegation: Day Two

Five of our Peacemakers in Action gather in Nigeria this week to call on the country to hold fair, peaceful and respectful elections and to urge religious leaders to avert conflict in their country. They'll be sending us dispatches. Here's the most recent update, from Pakistani Peacemaker Azhar Hussain:

Yehezkel and I arrived in Abuja airport together, Pastor James met us on the immigration line, we made our way to the hotel without my suitcase which will arrive tomorrow night…so I bought some traditional Nigerian men's dress. We left the hotel at 6:30 in the morning for a media interview and were interviewed by the Nigerian TV morning show. We then went to the Nigerian agency, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR).

The IPCR seminar was well attended and we spoke about how religion is often used for political purposes and utlized as a tool for creating fear that can lead to violent conflicts. The Q and A session lasted for almost an hour and many participants stayed after the session and talked to us. We visted the French Embassy in the evening and met with the ambassador. Overall a good day!

Blogging from the 2010 Nigeria Delegation: Friar Ivo Arrives in Abuja

Friar Ivo Markovic, Peacemaker in ActionFive of our Peacemakers in Action gather in Nigeria this week to call on the country to hold fair, peaceful and respectful elections and to urge religious leaders to avert conflict in their country. They'll be sending us dispatches. Here's the first, from Bosnian Peacemaker Friar Ivo Markovic:

"Saturday afternoon, 4 Dec 2010, I arrived to Abuja, from -2 C° in Sarajevo and -8 in Frankfurt to some +30 in Abuja. The warm air blew my face and gave me a new breath. Coming in airport I was gently touched and I have set my eyes on friendly face of Rev. James Wuye. At the time I found myself fully in Africa, Nigeria, in the mission sent of Tanenbaum Center in New York to bring there the models of reconciliation from postwar Bosnia. Soon in a hotel I met dear friend Imam Ashafa and in our conversation we found ourselves in the theme we are occupied with: to convert the perverse misuse of religions for violence to their natural peace potential.

For Sunday my wish was to celebrate liturgy participating in any African Christian church. Rev. James found his Catholic friend who took me in a suburb to celebrate Harvest Day. Ideal. All rich impressive downtowns of contemporary cities are similar, but in the suburbs I find a power of life and the recognizable spirit of a nation. The liturgy was vivid, joyful, dancing, bursting into singing, applause, smile, but also in tears of joy, shocking for one reticent, cool European. I sneered at myself seeing me dancing in the gothic liturgical clothes culturally imposed to these peoples. I became fully fond of Africans. I felt sinful because of my civilization which brought dangerous ideologies to these innocent peoples. I wish be something different.
Today evening I expect to meet an impressive group of people chosen from Tanenbaum Center because of their deeds committed in the situations of war, violence, suffering, so as to stop the spiral of violence and to convert it in direction of healing and reconciliation up to the peace. Azi brings experiences from Pakistan, Yehezkel from Israel and Palestina, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James are legendary friends from middle of Nigerian conflict, me from a similar Christian-Muslim conflict in Bosnia."
– Friar Ivo Markovic


New Film from the Imam and the Pastor

These days I'm surprised if someone working in my field hasn't seen the film The Imam and the Pastor. So fans like me say it's about time we have a sequel. An African Answer is more than that, but take Kofi Annan's word for it: " Peace needs to be deepened. There are no permanent angels or permanent devils in any community. This film is a resource of best practice. It reflects the indomitable spirit of the Kenyan people."

Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye have traveled the world sharing their inspiring true story of interreligious hatred turned to brotherhood. Where they can't be, their film The Imam and the Pastor has spoken for them. And yet there is more! These two Nigerians are expert peace practitioners who teach mediation, negotiation, peacebuilding and other life-saving skills throughout West Africa. When over one thousand people were killed following the disputed elections in Kenya at the end of 2007, the Imam and the Pastor were called to do peacebuilding in the worst-affected district. It is this practical and impactful conflict resolution work that is chronicled in their new film.

Because we know that students and practitioners alike are in great need of successful examples just like these, we celebrate this cinematic release! Bookmark FLT Films and watch for the DVDs coming soon.

Peacemaker Sakena Yacoobi and His Holiness the Dalai Lama

It is always slightly magical seeing a Tanenbaum Peacemaker on stage. This goes without saying, I suppose, about seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama. So, the combination of Peacemaker Sakena Yacoobi and the Dalai Lama at St. John the Divine was downright exhilarating.

It may seem ironic to some that the stand-out aspect of the conversation was their crisp practicality. Both Sakena and the Dalai Lama are sparse on pontification and direct on loving instruction: Educate and Be Compassionate.

Their common approach and warmth almost made me wonder if they were in fact old friends. Then I remembered that they have met before – at the 2005 Tanenbaum Working Retreat. Scrolling through the pictures of that event, I was reminded – yet again – just how remarkable it is to shine light on the Peacemakers in Action, on the individuals who are less known but in some ways just as magical as a Nobel Peace Prize winner (and everyone's favorite visored monk).

p.s. Check out HH in the NYTimes and read his new book on interreligious understanding!