United In Diversity
Partners: US Embassy Abuja
GFP vehicle: Arts and Advocacy For Peace
Years: 2018 – 2019
Kaduna is a cosmopolitan state in northwest Nigeria with over 60 ethnic groups and two major religions – Christianity and Islam. Although ethnic, religious, and political identities overlap, the longstanding tensions in Kaduna have led to stereotyping, limited interactions across ethnic divides, and recurrent violence including violent extremism. Youth radicalisation and recruitment into religious extremist groups, militias, and gangs have increased, with male youth making up 80% of active participants in violence.
The United In Diversity: Strengthening Inter-Ethnic and Inter-Religious Acceptance in Kaduna State, Nigeria Programme aimed at promoting acceptance of ethnic and religious differences in Kaduna. The Programme engaged 60 Nigerians of diverse backgrounds and 958 Beneficiary Community members to enhance peace and security in Kaduna through arts and advocacy activities for youth and adults that counter violent extremism and prevent conflict.
The Target Group showed a 60% increase in their willingness to have a member of a different ethnic or religious group visit their home.
This was measured based on a question to rate the TG members level of willingness to have a member from a different ethnic and religious group visit their own home.
The Target Group showed an 89% increase in confidence of their ability to develop and disseminate peace messaging.
This was measured based on individuals rating their ability of in developing and disseminating peace messaging.
The Beneficiary Community showed a 45% increase in the level of informal interaction with other members (both youth and adults) of a different ethnic and religious background.
This was measured based on how often the BC members interact with members from a different ethnicity or religion outside formal interaction.
I live in the South of Kaduna where I seldom visit communities in the northern part, but when I must, I constantly look over my shoulders. This Programme has exposed me to people from diverse ethnic and religious groups and has given me a better understanding of people from the North. I can now visit my friends in the Tudun Wada community without any fear or suspicion.
I left my home in Tudun Wada in 2000, after the crisis. My best friend was killed, which made me develop a hatred for Muslims. The Programme changed my mindset. Today I have two wonderful friends from Tudun Wada and Rigasa. One of them even visited me and was impressed with our community. I promised to visit her back.
Implementation Team Member
The training built my skills and inspired me to solve the issues in my community. Now, I believe that uniting people of different ethnicities and religions can bring about the change we need, and the change I hope to see.
A story of change
From Hatred to Hope: Abubakar’s Story
The Sharia Crisis of 2000 devastated countless families in Nigeria, many of whom lost their loved ones to violence. Even in 2018, almost two decades after the crisis began, many people still faced consequences of the clashes, including Abubakar Isah from Rigasa, Nigeria.
A participant in the Generations For Peace United In Diversity Programme, Abubakar grew up in a family of seven. Though he was not born into wealth, his family lived comfortably before the crisis began.
Abubakar was only four years-old when he witnessed rioters storm his family home and murder his eldest sibling, a Law student at the Ahmadu Bello University, before burning their house down.
“We were the only Muslims in the Sabon Gari community, so we were confused about who to trust and where to seek refuge,” he recalls. “Our neighbour, a Christian pastor, took us in and protected us. Even though he helped us, I still didn’t trust him or feel safe until we finally left the area,” he explains.
His family moved to the Rigasa community in the North of Nigeria, where many other Muslim families moved during the Sharia Crisis. Christian families inhabited the South, and the country became religiously divided.
“I started selling petrol in the Black Market to pay for my tuition at the Rigasa Students Association (RSA), where I eventually completed Primary and Secondary school. There, I met Rabiu Auwal, who invited me to be a part of United In Diversity, a peacebuilding programme implemented by Generations For Peace. At first, I was sceptical, especially when he mentioned that members of Christian communities would also be participating, but I decided to keep an open mind and attend,” Abubakar explains.
He continues, “The session in Maraban Rido changed me. I met a Christian friend, who most people now refer to as my girlfriend, because we both still visit each other often and speak over the phone. It was the Programme’s teambuilding activity that brought me and Deborah Koni Sheyin, from the predominantly Christian Maraban Rido community, together. We were paired and asked to share how our identities have shaped us,” Abubakar says.
“In her sheet, she wrote, ‘I am a Christian, but I am not a terrorist,’ and I wrote, ‘I am a Muslim, but I am not a terrorist.’ This coincidence sparked conversation between us, and I shared my story with her. She responded, ‘Although I have never experienced something like this, I do empathise with you. No one deserves to go through what you went through.’”
Since participating in the United In Diversity Programme, Abubakar now advocates for unity and respect between people in his community. He hopes that Nigerians, no matter their religion or ethnicity, will continue to treat each other with kindness and respect, seeing the similarities in each other rather than the differences. Abubakar traces his inspiration back to the GFP Programme, and he hopes to continue his newfound mission to bring his people together instead of driving them further apart.