Action for Reconciliation in Nigeria
22 Nov 2012
Tony Blair and Bishop Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, along with HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, launched new work led by the Faith Foundation, in Nigeria, to encourage reconciliation between Christian and Muslim communities.
To demonstrate the nature of the work, Tony Blair and Bishop Welby took part in a video conference between Muslim and Christian students to encourage greater dialogue and understanding between the faiths.
By talking directly to one another, the aim is to break down barriers, and give the students the knowledge to resist extremist voices and ideology by working together to achieve long term peace for the next generation in Nigeria.
"My Foundation and I are deeply committed to addressing the challenges of religious reconciliation in Nigeria. Understanding and respecting different faiths is central to securing sustainable peace, particularly where those who seek to misuse religion for violent ends aim to destroy it.
Bishop Justin Welby has been doing extremely good work in Nigeria towards exactly this goal. I hope that over the coming months, the work he and my Foundation do will go towards healing the rifts and divisions amongst faiths in the country, bringing unity and peaceful co-existence".
The country has seen deep divisions and tensions between these communities in recent times, caused by the challenges of poverty and barriers of ethnicity, class and religion.
Today marks the beginning of a plan of action with local Christian and Muslim faith leaders and young people who will work together, as well as with the Foundation to build sustainable co-existence.
Through joint leadership and education they will take action on shared challenges, such as preventing deaths from malaria.
"Thirty four years after first coming to Nigeria, and with more than seventy visits since in all parts of this vibrant, passionate, talented and promising country, I am both challenged and profoundly excited by this initiative ... It is a service, there is no question of bringing some external solutions, and peace and development in this country are always made possible only by Nigerians. Thank you for allowing me to contribute to the future of a country I admire and love."
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President, Christian Association of Nigeria said: "This is an important moment for us as a country. I believe in progressive dialogue. Dialogue where we can set goals and timelines. To find great people coming from around the world to help us in this is incredible. Thank you Mr Blair, your Foundation, Bishop Justin Welby and Prince Ghazi for giving us practical things to help us work together."
"The videoconference was an eye opener," said Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto. "What the children discussed captured exactly what we are trying to do. We need to understand one another. We need education to know what our religions teach us. We need to love one another like we love ourselves."
The video conference today was run by the Foundation's high school programme, Face to Faith, which brings high school students together in over 19 countries so they can learn from each other directly, respect difference instead of fearing it, and ultimately replace conflict with cooperation.