The Parliament Blog

Archive for the ‘nigeria’ tag

Real Living is Encounter

Father Musa (rightmost) and others at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Photo submitted by author.

by Father Gerald Musa

Why should I engage with people who hold religious beliefs which are different from mine and what difference does interreligious dialogue make when religious intolerance is on the increase?

These are questions I have often reflected upon and I have met friends who ask similar questions. However, I notice that it is hardly possible to avoid interreligious relationships because I was born into a mixed family of Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. My paternal relations are Muslims and my maternal relations are Christians and some of my best friends belong to other religious beliefs. My first name ‘Gerald’ is chosen from the Catholic ‘Saint Gerald Majella’ and my surname is ‘Musa’ which means Moses, an interreligious figure found in Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures. So all these factors put together have provided a basis and kindled my interest in interreligious relationships.

I think the most important reasons for which I have developed a passion for Christian-Muslim dialogue are my family and communal background. As a child growing up in a mixed community of Christians and Muslims, I have seen the best and the worst of interreligious relationships. In the communal farm work, no one asks if the other is a Christian or Muslim; in naming ceremonies and marriages everyone participates and contributes irrespective of religious beliefs. During the Muslim celebrations their Christian counterparts supported them with food ingredients and clothes with which to celebrate and the Muslim neighbours did the same for the Christians during Christian festivities. In the village what mattered most was everyone is somehow related to the other. On the other hand, I have personally witnessed riots between Christians and Muslims. The first was during my days in the minor Seminary when arsonists came in and set the school ablaze at a time when we were preparing for our final (high school) exams.

Through the years I have developed an inherent passion for interreligious dialogue and particularly, for dialogue with Muslims. From the various literature on dialogue and the attendance of conferences, my thoughts on dialogue are evolving and so I come to realize that disposition to dialogue is not a destination but a journey. One of the most remarkable pieces of literature on dialogue which I enjoy is Martin Buber’s “I and Thou.” For Buber, the I-Thou relationship is a dialogue and the I-It relationship is a monologue. The traits of the I-Thou relationship are mutual respect, equality and openness while the features of the I-It relationship are objectification and the manipulation of the other.

After ordination as a priest I have been officially engaged at different levels in interreligious dialogue. The first organisation in which I was involved was the Christian-Muslim forum and subsequently in the Nigeria Interreligious Council. Martin Buber says “All real living is encounter.” Through interreligious meetings and conferences I have encountered people with different religious persuasions. The most important conference which I attended is the Parliament of the World’s Religions which took place in Melbourne, Australia in December 2009. During this event, I came across prominent interreligious bridge builders such Hans Kung; Katherine Marshall of the Berkley Center for Peace, Religion and World affairs and the World Faiths Development Dialogue; Wesley Ariaraja of the World Council of Churches; Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning; Fr. Lawrence Freeman of World Community for Christian Meditation; and Precious Rasheeda Muhammad of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions headquartered in the US. I also had the privilege of being on the same discussion panel with Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Bukhari, a leader of the Sufi faith in Jerusalem.

When I travelled from Brisbane to Melbourne for the conference, I was sure of where I was going – to the Presbytery of Beaumaris and Black Rock Catholic Parish. Fr. John Dupuche, the Parish Priest and a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University had offered me an accommodation, but I was surprised to see that he lived in the same house with a Buddhist monk, Venerable Lobsang Tendar, who is also an artist, and a Hindu Swami Samnyasanand, who is also a neurophysiologist. I could not work out how these three lived together under the same roof. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Venerable Lobsang Tendar says: “Every day we do meditation and sometimes in the morning and afternoon and this has really helped me.” This statement indicates that the three are united by the common ground of meditation.

I believe strongly that the path towards peace is in an authentic relationship with other cultures and faith traditions. This relationship begins when we are able to see the common humanity which we share, when we are open to encounter with others and when we make an effort to improve our knowledge on the meaning of dialogue. In 2001, when Pope John Paul II announced the International prayer meeting of world religious leaders which took place in Assisi, he said: “We wish to have Christians and Muslims come together to proclaim before the world that religion must never be a reason for conflict, hatred and violence.”  These words are still relevant for us today.

Fr. Gerald M. Musa was born in Gusau, Zamfara State, Nigeria and is a Catholic priest of Sokoto Diocese, Nigeria. Fr. Musa had studied philosophy at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Makurdi and theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary, Jos, Nigeria. He undertook postgraduate studies in Communication at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. Fr. Musa worked as Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (Sokoto Chapter). He also worked as an executive member of the Muslim-Christian Forum and the Nigeria Interreligious Council, Sokoto, Nigeria.

He is currently at the stage of completing his doctoral thesis at the School of Journalism and Communication. He is writing on “Dialogue as Communication: Potentials and Challenges of Christian-Muslim dialogue in Nigeria.”

Fr. Musa has keen interest in intercultural communication and in communication for social change.

Kenyan Muslims, Christians Vow To Prevent Violence

Photo Credit Getty Imagesby Tom Odula
from The Huffington Post

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan clerics across the religious divide vowed Tuesday to not allow sectarian violence to erupt following attacks on churches over the weekend that killed at least 15 people.

The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya said Muslims will form vigilante groups alongside Christians to guard churches in Kenya’s North Eastern Province, where the latest attacks occurred.

Adan Wachu, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims and the chairman of Inter-Religious Council, said the weekend attacks, which are being blamed on an al-Qaida-linked militant group from Somalia, are meant to trigger sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims. Wachu said clerics will actively preach against retaliation to prevent violence from spreading in Kenya like it has in Nigeria, where attacks on churches by a Muslim sect has ignited a spiral of violence.

Click here to read full article

 

Christians, Muslims Unite At Nigeria Protest

by Jon Gambrell
from The Huffington Post

Christians and Muslims protesting together in Nigeria. Photo by Getty Images.

LAGOS, Nigeria — A human wave of more than 20,000 surrounded the Muslim faithful as they prayed toward Mecca Friday, as anti-government demonstrations over spiraling fuel prices and corruption showed unity among protesters despite growing sectarian tensions in Africa’s most populous nation.

While violence sparked by religious and ethnic divisions left about 1,500 people dead last year alone in Nigeria, some hope the ongoing protests gripping the oil-rich nation will bring together a country that already suffered through a bloody civil war.

“It shows that Nigeria is now coming together as one family,” said Abdullahi Idowu, 27, as he prepared to wash himself before Friday prayers.

Click here to read full article

June 28th, 2012 at 10:55 am

Bishops and Extractive Industries: A Human Face of Mining

Katherine Marshall

by Katherine Marshall
from the Huffington Post

In far flung corners of the world, religious leaders are protesting against mining companies and projects. What are their complaints? In Guatemala, they argue that gold mining poisons the water table, in Chad that painfully negotiated revenues that promised to ease the pain of poverty are nowhere in sight, in Ecuador that oil drilling devastates the landscape, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Nigeria that mining feeds devastating conflicts, in Ghana that mining in forest reserves threatens animal and plant species, in India that it strips indigenous people of their land rights, and in Peru that it pollutes lakes and rivers. The litany goes on and on but the underlying story told is one of broken promises, of powerful companies for whom profit is their God, and of a wounded planet whose land resources are despoiled with little to show, harming the people who live nearby.

It’s not that the church leaders are fighting a futile battle to stop all mining. As a statement of Catholic Bishops from Latin America who met last July in Chaclacayo, Peru began, “the church recognizes the importance of the extractive industries, the service they can provide to mankind and the economies of the world, and the progress they contribute to society as a whole.” But, there is a long list of “buts.” The bishops’ bottom line is that they see an irrational exploitation that leaves a trail of destruction, even death, throughout Latin America.

At the Washington National Cathedral an unlikely gathering of bishops, preachers, and advocates met on April 24 to explore how they might join forces both to draw attention to the harm that bad mining practices wreak on people and land, and to point to practical, positive ways to move forward. The prime movers behind the effort are the Bank Information Center, its indomitable leader, Chad Dobson and Father Seamus Finn, whose work with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility has focused for years on nudging and cajoling companies towards responsibility in their corporate practice. Two large faith inspired organizations, Catholic Relief Services and Tearfund, have long campaigned for responsible mining and support the new coalition.

Click here to read the full article

Nigeria: Sultan Attributes Violence to Lack of Religious Understanding

from AllAfrica.com

The Sultan of Sokoto, Dr Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, said in Sokoto on Monday that lack of education was the root cause of violence in the country.

Abubakar spoke while receiving the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue in the Vatican, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, who paid him a visit in his palace in Sokoto.

He said people were not knowledgeable enough about their religions and as such took issues in the negative.

According to him, our people do not know the similarities between Islam and Christianity due to lack of education.

The Sultan added that it was important that we must always teach adherents the true meaning of religion.

He said that that was because if people had knowledge about the similarities of the two religions there would not be conflict in the polity, the Sultan said.

Click here to read the full article. 

Religious Leaders in Nigeria Call for Peace and Interreligious Cooperation

from Leadership, Nigeria

Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, on Wednesday advised Christians to always control their anger and avoid revenge irrespective of the circumstances they find themselves.

Onaiyekan gave the advice in Madalla, Niger, on Wednesday on the occasion of a funeral mass at the St Theresa’s Catholic Church, for victims of the Dec. 25, 2011 bomb blast.

He urged the worshippers to move from natural feelings to “the living springs of our faith.

“If we have learnt to see the hand of God in all that happen to us, we must see it, especially in events like the Christmas Day bomb blast, which left us totally shattered.

“We must go beyond nature and overcome natural instincts of anger and, perhaps, even vengeance.’’

Onaiyeka said the injunction of the Lord was clear: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who treat you badly’’.

“We must draw on the grace of Christ for such spirit for forgiveness as Christ on the cross gave the example when he prayed for those who were persecuting him,’’ he said.

Onaiyekan also prayed that those in charge of the nation’s security and safety would have the wisdom to know how best to tackle security challenges as they occur.

“We pray for God’s protection on our security agents who often find themselves in the line of fire in the course of their duties,’’ he said.

In his message, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Rev. Fr. Mathew Kukah, said religious leaders across the faiths must stand up and face the challenge of the times by offering “a leadership that focuses on service to humanity’’.

“These are troubled times for our country; I say so because amidst this confusing debris of hate, anger and frustration, we have had some very interesting dimensions.

“As Nigerians, Christians and Muslims, we must stand together to ensure that our resources are well utilised for the common good.

“These are difficult times but they are also times of promise; our country has turned its back on all forms of dictatorships.
“Our hands are on the plough and we are resolutely committed to democracy,’’ Kukah said.

Click here to read the full article

 

Dialogue in Nigeria: Muslims & Christians Creating Their Future

This hopeful documentary gives voices and faces to 200 courageous Muslims and Christians – diverse young women and men – who unite successfully in Jos, central Nigeria.

Refusing to be enemies, they are together during days and evenings of the 2010 International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Communication.

They are tense yet excited to finally cross lines of religion, economics, tribe, and gender to transcend the status quo and discover empathy for each other’s personal life experiences.

Together they realize that “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard,” while listening-to-learn and thus dignifying themselves and the “others.”

Face to face and in small circles, they begin with ice-breakers and continue in depth to discover one another’s equal humanity – fear, grief, needs, hopes, and concrete plans for a shared future.

These determined young Nigerians illustrate how others worldwide can successfully connect and communicate to create authentic community.

Click here to watch the video

Christians and Muslims Unite at Nigeria Protest

By Jon Gambell
From Huffington Post

LAGOS, Nigeria — A human wave of more than 20,000 surrounded the Muslim faithful as they prayed toward Mecca Friday, as anti-government demonstrations over spiraling fuel prices and corruption showed unity among protesters despite growing sectarian tensions in Africa’s most populous nation.

While violence sparked by religious and ethnic divisions left about 1,500 people dead last year alone in Nigeria, some hope the ongoing protests gripping the oil-rich nation will bring together a country that already suffered through a bloody civil war.

“It shows that Nigeria is now coming together as one family,” said Abdullahi Idowu, 27, as he prepared to wash himself before Friday prayers.

Labor unions, meanwhile, announced Friday they would halt their five-day strike for the weekend, allowing families stuck largely inside their homes to go to markets and rest. Union leaders also plan to meet President Goodluck Jonathan and government officials on Saturday for new negotiations, just ahead of a promised labor shutdown of Nigeria’s oil industry.

Nigeria, which produces about 2.4 million barrels of crude a day, is the fifth-largest oil exporter to the U.S. While the country has a several-week stock of oil ready for export, the threatened shutdown Sunday could shake oil futures as traders remained concerns about worldwide supply.

The strike began Monday, paralyzing the nation of more than 160 million people. The root cause remains gasoline prices: President Goodluck Jonathan’s government abandoned subsidies that kept gasoline prices low Jan. 1, causing prices to spike from $1.70 per gallon (45 cents per liter) to at least $3.50 per gallon (94 cents per liter). The costs of food and transportation also largely doubled in a nation where most people live on less than $2 a day.

Anger over losing one of the few benefits average Nigerians see from being an oil-rich country, as well as disgust over government corruption, have led to demonstrations across this nation and violence that has killed at least 10 people. Red Cross volunteers have treated more than 600 people injured in protests since the strike began, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday.

“Over 4,000 persons have also been temporarily displaced there as a result of the strike and communal tensions,” said Mamadou Sow, the deputy head of the committee’s delegation in Nigeria. “Most of them have now started to return to their homes.”

Click here to read the full article

An Interfaith Generation Unwilling to Wait

By Frank Fredericks
Executive Director, World Faith

When religious tension between Muslims and Christians rocked northern Nigeria on January 8th of this year, the refrain of religiously fueled violence sounded so much like it had before. The ‘other’ was at fault for the problems of a region, country, and world. But when the tensions boiled over and violence broke out, resulting in burning down of churches and mosques and the death over 100 people, the response was profoundly different.

This time, young volunteers from World Faith Nigeria took action. Responding to a distress call, they rescued seventy-two passengers from a bus that was set on fire by young attackers.  On both sides were young adults taking action. But this time one set of young adults was responding to save lives and, ideally, prevent future violence.

Nigeria, like many countries around the world, hosts interfaith dialogues marked by the convening of religious leaders to counter acts of violence.  While this work is groundbreaking and necessary, it alone is not enough to turn the trends of religious violence. Violence perpetrated by youth can best be countered by equally motivated youth working toward the greater good.

World Faith helps answer the challenge of engaging young people internationally who have the potential to either cause or resolve inter-religious tensions.  Mobilizing religiously diverse youth to engage in community service projects in conflict-prone regions, World Faith enables local youth leaders to address the local needs of their communities and resolve underlying sources of strife — which are often economic or social rather than religious. World Faith has chapters in nine countries and is continuing to rapidly expand.

Not convinced that youth are the answer?  The Arab Spring stands as the greatest example of what happens when young people take action.  Movements for democratic reform have been led by the youth, who organize, mobilize, and remain endlessly resilient. Egypt stands out as a defining example of this, with Tahrir Square becoming the epicenter for Millennials with a mission.

I have spent a good amount of time in Egypt, developing World Faith’s Cairo Chapter.  As I watched the events unfold, I realized that Tahrir Square not only represented a historic moment for the power of the youth, but also stood as the greatest example of pluralism in our generation.  Most of these young people have little interest in theology, ideology, or religious separatism.  Rather than trumping secularism, they embraced pluralism.  While Muslim protesters prayed, the Christian protesters stood guard.  In short, youth worked together, took action, and transcended religious boundaries that their parents could not.

World Faith is utilizing the social entrepreneurship capacity of young people across the world.  In particular, those from the marginalized communities have stepped forward to develop and lead projects in their communities.  These projects are in direct competition with the allure of violence.  Violence, after all, is often the act of last resort — when youth feel they have no other way of being heard and have little stake in their communities.

The world is no longer the same as it was before the Arab Spring. Young people have demonstrated their potential to initiate change and profoundly impact world politics — beginning at the local level. The interfaith movement must adapt and catch up, and not only engage religiously diverse youth, but let them take the lead. We must empower the youth, a generation unwilling to wait.

Nigerian Imam and Pastor Lead Peace Efforts in Kenya

From The Washington Post,

Muhammad Ashafa (left) and James Wuye (right)

Muhammad Ashafa (left) and James Wuye (right)

The unlikely and inspiring Nigerian duo Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye were in Switzerland last week at the Caux Forum for Human Security. Their partnership is unlikely because they were militia leaders on opposite sides of the conflict in northern Nigeria and lost not only friends but parts of their own bodies as combatants (James wears his artificial arm proudly). It is inspiring because they are powerful exemplars of the possibility of reconciliation.

Pastor James and Imam Ashafa were at Caux to launch a film called An African Answer (it will be released in September). An earlier film, The Imam and the Pastor, told the story of how they overcame their own hatred and joined forces, and their subsequent joint work in Nigeria. The new film is about their work in Kenya to help dampen the fires of violence that erupted there after the 2007 election.

Kenya’s conflicts are centered on ethnic differences, not religious ones. So the imam and the pastor approached local communities in Eldoret not in their religious roles but as specialists in conflict resolution.

The film is instructive, showing how the duo went about their work. Each man led a group of one of the ethnic communities, the Kalenjins and Kikiyus. They first undertook a classic effort to draw out some positive views each held of the other. Then they delved into the grievances, and there were plenty. Land topped the list, but there was also much resentment about attitudes and respective tendencies to stick to their own communities, including separate Christian churches.

The first visit seemed to bring some greater consciousness of the complexities of the sources of conflict and produced a committee with a mandate to monitor the fragile peace. A second visit some months later delved deeper and sought ideas for common action. A plan to unify the ethnically separated markets in a town emerged.

And then, the film shows, members of the communities wrote down their grievances on pieces of paper and burned them in a ceremonial fire. This ritual was aimed at catharsis and symbolized a commitment to consign the bitterness of past hurts and longstanding grievances to the flames.

The two Nigerians seemed to lead the Christian reconciliation rituals without a trace of concern for religious difference – indeed a sense pervades the images that the unifying power of faith is far greater than any specific difference in beliefs or teachings. Forgiveness, love of neighbor, and commitment to address and resolve conflicts were powerful bonds.

A jarring but realistic feature of the film is the dominance of men. Women play only marginal roles. That’s an honest reflection of the social norms in the communities concerned and is another reminder of how important it is to bring women into central roles in work for peace. They have so much to offer.

Click here to read the full article.