I watched the documentary Where I Belong by Arinze Eze. The documentary was funded by the Reel Diversity Program of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), which gives young Canadian filmmakers the opportunity to make a film that reflects on Canada’s ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity. (The documentary Me and the Mosque by Little Mosque on the Prairie creator Zarqa Nawaz was funded by this program).
Check out a promo for Eze’s film.
Arinze Eze is a young Nigerian of Ibo descent who has been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba for the last nine years since leaving his family in Nigeria in order to work in Canada. He’s lucky because he was born in Canada (It appears that his parents lived in Edmonton, Alberta for some time) and so is legally a Canadian citizen although he was mostly raised in Nigeria. The film, “Where I Belong”, focuses on Eze’s worries that his parents won’t accept the life he has made for himself in Canada, particularly his Jewish girlfriend of 5 years, Tina. During his visits to Nigeria, he’s kept most of his personal life a secret. His parents will be coming to visit him for the first time and he will have to finally be honest with them about what he’s really been up to the last nine years. Arinze hasn’t told his parents that he’s given up engineering to be an artist (music, painting, theatre, and filmmaking). This is a real worry because he knows his father worked hard to put him through school so that he could eventually make a good living in the West and support the family. He is not going to be able to do that as an artist. Also, Arinze’s mother wants him to marry someone the family has chosen for him. She is also a born-again Christian so he doesn’t think she will be very accepting of his Jewish girlfriend.
Arinze and his girlfriend Tina end up breaking up just before his mother comes to stay with him. It appears that Arinze believes they are just too different. He is very concerned about what identity conflicts his children with Tina would have: Would they be Nigerian? Canadian? Both? Neither? He also mentions that he might want to retire to Nigeria.
Arinze has difficulty getting his parents to Canada because their visas are rejected. This is pretty common for Africans wanting to bring their family members here to Canada just to visit. The fear is that they will never want to leave.
Eventually, Arinze’s parents’ visas are approved. His mother comes first. I really liked Arinze’s mother. She was so elegant, almost regal in her bearing. Although she began by saying that she didn’t approve of mixed race marriages because the children would end up being confused, after learning about how much Tina has taken care of her son while he’s been living in Canada, she decides she wants to meet her. Tina and Arinze’s mother meet and Arinze’s mother thanks Tina for taking care of her son. She admits that she didn’t know white people could be so nice given her past experiences with racism while living in Edmonton. Tina ends up crying during much of this meeting while Arinze’s mother remains coldy composed (but I think that’s just the way she is).
Arinze’s dad proves to me more emotional, even something of a romantic. He has no problem that his son is an artist. Actually, he says he always knew Arinze would become an artist. He also thinks Arinze should get back with Tina because “everyone needs someone to love”. It’s pretty obvious that Arinze’s own parents are still very fond of each other. When Arinze asks his father if it is too late for him to so dramatically change his career path (from engineering to arts) his father reassures him with an Ibo proverb: “When you wake up, that’s your morning”. I’m definitely going to be using that one.
So, in the end, most of Arinze’s concerns were in his own head. He gets back with Tina and feels more grounded now that his parents know the truth about his life in Canada.
I enjoyed watching the documentary particularly as I am a “confused” half-Nigerian child of a mixed race couple…the kind of creature Arinze’s mother dreads he will produce. The truth is it is a confusing experience to be of mixed race but probably not any more confusing than being second generation. Acceptance, both by your parents, and the world outside is what we all long for. Having to live a lie isn’t good for anyone but far too often second-generation children do this because they feel they have to. Sometimes they really do have to and sometimes their worries are really of their own creation, because they have misjudged their parents.
Check out a music video by Arinze Eze
Originally recorded in 2008 for the CHUO Black community radio program “Black on Black”. I intend to write a more thorough profile of Malik Ambar in the near future.
I’m going to tell you something about the life of Malik Ambar. The story of Malik Ambar is just one of the many stories I could tell you about the history of the slavery of Africans in India. Ya, you heard me right. India! You listening now.
Okay, it all starts back in Africa, in southern Ethiopia. We know his name was Chapu and that he was probably born in 1548. It’s not too clear how Malik Ambar became a slave. It could have been that his parents were forced to give him up in order to pay a debt or he was a war captive, or he was abducted during a slave raid by either Ethiopians or Arabs. The enslavement of people who weren’t Christian was legal in Christian Ethiopia and it was religiously legal for Arabs to enslave anyone who wasn’t Muslim. Either way, Malik Ambar ended up sold to Arab merchants in Yemen. He eventually ended up as a slave in Baghdad where his master converted him to Islam, gave him the name Ambar, and taught him some things about finance and administration. This education made him an even more valuable slave and he was eventually sold to the Ethiopian prime minster of Ahmadnagar a province in the Deccan region of India. There’s was an Ethiopian prime minister? Ethiopians, then called Habashis were popular in the region as military slaves. They were consider to be more loyal and less likely to rebel against their masters, then say, their masters own children.
Malik Ambar was eventually freed and built up an militia of mercenaries which he would hire out to various rulers in the region. Ambar developed a reputation as an skilled military commander. At the time, the rulers of the Deccan were fighting off the attempts of the Mughal Dynasty of Northern India to invade them. Ambar was so successful that he was able to replace the ruler of the Nizam Shahi Sultanate with his own son-in law, Sultan Murtaza Nizam Shah. Ambar was officially his regent but everyone one know that Sultan Murtaza was just a puppet and Ambar was the real ruler of the Sultanate. Ambar led the resistance against the invasion of the Mughals, whose Emperor Jahangir, took a personal dislike against Ambar and often wrote in frustration about how his army was being defeated by a “black-faced slave”!
Despite Emperor Jahangir’s rather racist rantings against Ambar, Mughal court historians acknowledged Ambar’s skill: “In warfare, in command, in sound judgement, and in administration, he had no rival or equal. History records no other instance of an Abyssinian slave arriving at such eminence.” Perhaps the best evidence of Ambar’s special talent was the fact that the Sultanate fell to the Mughals soon after he died.
The story of Malik Ambar is one of extraordinary success: beginning as a slave in Southern Ethiopia and ending as the de facto ruler of a Sultanate in India. But, I can’t help but wonder if, despite his glorious rise to power, if Malik Ambar didn’t want to do the one thing that it was truly impossible for him to do, the one thing that was so impossible for all slaves taken so far away from the land of their birth to do, to go back home.
Slavery and South Asian History, edited by Indrani Chatterjee and Richard M. Eaton, published by Indiana Unversity Press (The image on the cover of this book is of Malik Ambar by Hashim c. 1610)
Dedicated to all the lovely, professional but single women of colour in Ottawa, my friends in particular.
I remember once being told by a professional man of colour how great Ottawa was because there were so many beautiful, intelligent, well educated, professional and desperately single women of colour to choose from!
Why? Well, considering that the main employer here in Ottawa is the Federal Government and that corporation is overwhelmingly populated by women of colour the competition for the few men of colour in this city is pretty high.
Now, you might suggest that the other main employer in the city, the High Tech Industry, overwhelmingly populated by men of colour, would make up for this. But have you met the guys of colour who work in High Tech? If these guys are interested in an animate object with whom to spend their lives with they have probably asked Mommy and Daddy to import her from back home already*.
Unless someone writes a memo to Harper convincing him to hire more eligible men of colour for the public service because sexually frustrated female employees of colour have been scientifically proven to be less productive, the gender gap in this city isn’t likely to change any time soon.
So, what’s a single women of colour stuck in Ottawa supposed to do: Consider Something New.
When the film Something New, in which a Black professional woman hooks up with a White working-class man came out Oprah dedicated a whole show to the issue of Black women dating White men. Although many of the Black men interviewed lamented that seeing a Black woman end up with a White man was like “losing a sister” the sad conclusion was that considering that Black women were doing much better professionally than Black men and often the Black men that were professionally successful were marrying White women there just weren’t enough brothers to go around.
In other communities of colour, with the prevalence of importing wives from back home*, particularly in the Arab and South Asian communities, even women from communities where men and women might be equally successful professionally are finding it hard to find a man. Added to this that often in these communities daughters come with marriageablity expiry dates, the pressure on these women to bring home a good boy from the community as soon as possible can push some over the edge.
Many of my wonderful, professional and single female friends of colour complain about being lonely, horny, and fed-up with their mothers and aunties asking them when they are going to get married.
All I have to say to my desperate sisters of colour is this: There are perfectly eligible White men out there ready and willing to fulfill your needs.
Yes, I said it, WHITE MEN!
I think that you should all consider dating White men.
Or at least, don’t write-off the idea of dating a White man if a nice enough one comes along and seems interested in you.
The majority of men in this city who are professionals are White and you are just going to have to accept the fact that you might end up with one of them as tragic as that may seem.
I know, I know, you have many objections to this suggestion.
Let’s explore some of these, shall we?
A White Man Can’t Understand Me, My Culture, My Experiences of Racism, The Struggle of My People, etc.
Yes, you are right. A White man will never get what it is to be a person of colour.
He will have to begin to challenge his White Privilege if he hasn’t started doing this already.
You might have to teach him how to use chopsticks and discover the joys of chicken feet. You might have to teach him how to properly pronounce “Jaan”.
You’ll have a lot of history to teach him and maybe a few new languages to boot.
But if he is serious about being with you he will be willing to learn.
Besides, are you really guaranteed by being with a man from your own community that you will be understood? Although, your cultural context is deeply integral to your development as an individual so are many other things that a man may not understand just because he’s from the same community. And I don’t think a White man is any less able to understand these things about you, particularly if it’s these things that attracted him to you in the first place.
My Parents Want Me To Bring Home A Good (Add Ethnicity Here) Boy
I understand that you want your parents to approve of your future spouse if you wish to stay close to your families but after a certain time (particularly if you end up passing your marriageablity expiry date) your parents will probably just be happy that you are getting married and aren’t going to end up alone and not giving them any grandchildren.
You also might want to disabuse your parents of the idea that there are actually that many “Good (Add Ethnicity Here) Boys” out there. Parents really need to become more aware of the nastiness these boys are getting up to. I’m often amused by the persistent idea that White men are drug addled, lazy, sex maniacs whereas boys of colour are sober, hard-working virgins. I’d take a drug-addled, lazy, sexually maniacal White boy over his counterpart of colour any day. At least the White boy doesn’t lie to his mother’s face about what he was really doing on Saturday night!
I Don’t Want to Be Exotified by Some Pervy White Dude
Sections of the Porn Industry are exclusively dedicated to fulfilling White guys racist sexual fantasies about women of colour.
I remember when dating in high school this was a particular problem for me as a Black woman. I’d start dating some seemingly innocuous White boy and all of a sudden I’d discover that he expected me to be a sex-crazed jungle cat ready to shake my booty in his face and call him Big Papa.
But the sad reality is that many of you are just as likely to be exotified by perves in your own communities.
As a lighter-skinned Black woman, I’m always a bit freaked out if a Black guy can’t stop making comments about how light I am (I can usually get him to cool it by elaborating on how short and nappy my hair is). My Desi friends who are lighter-skinned have attracted Desi boys particularly desperate for a “fair-skinned” bride. Or the opposite happens, a light-skinned Black or Desi boy seems totally into you because you are darker than him and he hopes hooking up with you will alleviate his anxieties about his own authenticity as a man of colour.
If you feel you are being exotified than just tell that White dude that you have no intention of being his Geisha or reenacting the Kama Sutra with him and that he should just download some porn because no real life woman of colour is going to want anything to do with him.
I’m Hindu, Sikh, Muslim etc. My Religion is Important To Me and I Want to Raise My Children In It
I’m not sure about all religious communities but most communities allow for conversion.
Now getting your White Boy to convert is another story. Try to make sure that you don’t date a guy who is a total atheist (No disrespect to atheists, some of my best friends are atheists, but you must admit you people are hard to convert). So, if he at least has some belief in some abstract higher power just start trying to convince him that this higher power he’s describing sounds an awful lot like your particular deity.
Hindus and Buddhists will have less trouble doing this because your religions are associated with positive spiritual values here in the West like peace and tranquility. Who wouldn’t want to aspire to the selflessness of the Buddha? Who wouldn’t want to put pictures of the adorable Baby Krishna up around their house?
If you are Muslim, however, your job is much harder. Islam is certainly not the most popular religion and your average White guy doesn’t want to risk ending up on the no-fly list just for a woman. But there are some White guys who would and if a White guy is willing to risk ending up on the no-fly list for you, you know he’s the one.
We Muslims, we love to convert people. So dating a non-Muslim White Guy isn’t even dating-It’s Dawah!!! If your parents or community members give you a hard time ask them: Are You Against the Spreading of Islam? Of course they’re not.
In order to get your White boy to start warming up to Islam get him to read a lot of Rumi.
Also, talk a lot about how in Islam sex between married people is a totally guilt-free spiritual act. Dig up all those Muslim marriage manuals that advocate fulfilling a wife’s sexual desires. You’re teaching him about Islam and ensuring that you have a satisfying sex life all at the same time! Try to bring up sex as often as possible in the context of your religion. This way you are associating Islam with positive, warm, fuzzy things as opposed to all those negative images of bloodthirsty terrorists blowing up school children and flying planes into tall buildings. These are desperate times and, as they say, they call for desperate measures. Besides, if you yourself are committed to remaining chaste until your wedding night and you want this White boy to wait for you, you’ll need some way of channeling all the pent up sexual energy otherwise something will explode and it won’t be a suicide bomber.
Okay, Okay I’ll Consider A Guy Who’s Not of Colour But I Don’t Want Some Straight Up White Guy!
Fine, there are non-Straight Up White Guys available to you: Jews, Armenians, Portuguese, Italians, Greeks, and a wide variety of Latin Americans.
But remember, this is Ottawa and there aren’t many of these men to go around.
Seeing as they are so much hotter than your average Straight Up White Guy, they are in very high demand.
So, you go girl, but keep your eye on the Straight Up White Guy!
* In this essay I don’t mean to offend any woman who has been chosen by her husband or his family from a foreign country. Actually, I admire your bravery because moving to an entirely new country to be with a man requires a great deal of strength and fortitude and is a risk I would never be capable of taking.
As my readers may know, my father comes from the Nigerian minority ethnic group the Ijaw, who are concentrated in the Niger Delta.
The following are some proverbs from this community whose wisdom and truth particularly resonate with me. I found them on the website of the Bayelsa State Council for Arts and Culture.
Tell me what you think about them.
A child who hides what he is doing from his father will always go to the old man for help when trouble comes.
He who sees a rough river and tries to cross with a small canoe should not blame God.
It is only when the fishing gear is broken that one hears its wonderful performance. The tongue is only 3 inches, but it can kill a man that is 6ft tall.
A person who has not secured a place on the floor should not look for a mat.
If the singer is a fool, the listener is also a fool.
A man who thinks everything around him is sweet should remember that bitter leaves grow in the bush with oranges.
A man may have unlimited access to his wife and share flesh and blood but her bones belong to her people.
He whose house is on fire does not pursue a rat.
To whom nothing is given, of him nothing can be required.
He who has not sat on the marital stool does not know the problems of marriage.
One does not protect another’s head in such a manner as to allow the hawk to lift one’s own off one’s shoulder.
A wise fish knows that a beautiful worm that looks so easy to swallow has a sharp hook attached to it.
Neither whose reign brings peace and stability nor the one whose reign brings turbulence would be forgotten.
The man who jumps from the ground onto an ant-hill is still on the ground.
The world is like a dancing masquerade. If you want to see it well, you do not stand is one place.
The rat says he has no quarrel with its killer but with the one who informs on its whereabouts.
Happiness in marriage is a matter of chance.
A parent with only one child sleeps with one eye open.
If you wish to read more Ijaw proverbs visit the Bayelsa State Council for Arts and Culture website.
Last year, I had a chance to see the film The Imam and the Pastor about Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, two Nigerians, one Muslim, one Christian, who have been able to put aside their differences and come together to fight communal violence in Northern Nigeria. This film really gives me hope. It is also a great example of what real interreligious dialogue, with a vision towards reconciliation, can achieve. It was also just great seeing a documentary about Nigeria, this place I long to see, where my father lives, but which I have yet to journey to.
According to Imam Ashafa: ‘Religion is a candle to light the house or to burn down the house. It is an energy, and like nuclear energy, it can be used for good or destructive purposes. Our task is to see religion used for positive purposes.’
According to Pastor Wuye, ‘Nigeria is a very religious country. The conflict entrepreneurs use faith as the medium to inspire violence. We’re using faith to de-programme violence.’
I really recommend seeing the film. It premiered at the United Nations in New York and was screened at the House of Commons in the UK.
The following in an excerpt from an interview with Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa by Africa Today:
I put it to Pastor James that there are those – and there is an extensive list – who do not believe that after vowing to kill each other and confronting each other murderously for a long time, all is now forgiven and that they have kissed and made-up. Is this a match made in heaven or a match made in Hollywood? Pastor James replies, almost shouting: “This is your journalist instinct running wild,” but he admits there are ghosts to be exorcise. “I know some people would find the documentary too good to be true. But I truly believe that this is a marriage. From time-to-time we’ll disagree on things, however, I love this guy and we’ll never get a divorce,” stressing: “Imam and I are in this together, to promote co-operation for the long term in Nigeria and wherever we are called upon.” “I am no quitter. What our story proves is that communication is best,” he adds.
Ashafa told E K’ABO about how they faced opposition from their respective religious groups when they first came together to promote their inter-faith initiatives and local reconciliation in their communities. There was strong rejection. Some incensed people branded them compromising traitors. “Sceptics mocked us and our idea. But today we have majority support in my country and we are being called upon by other countries, organisations and small communities to sort out conflicts before they get out of hand and sometimes to quench already smouldering conflicts threatening to engulf communities.
The source for the following profiles of Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye and the description of their initiative come from Ashoka.org
Pastor Wuye and Imam Ashafa believe the only way religious violence can be reduced or stopped in Nigeria is by having leaders of each faith promote religious teachings of peace and non-violence. Their organization, the Interfaith Mediation Center of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum, deals with the psychology of religious violence and addresses its causes and effects. Wuye and Ashafa are influencing schools, houses of worship, and community centers to prevent violence and intervene when conflicts erupt. Their education and media outreach strategies have afforded them unprecedented, widespread support and legitimacy for their efforts to promote peaceful coexistence.
The son of an Islamic scholar from a long line of Muslim clerics dating back 13 generations, Mohammed Ashafa grew up in a conservative family that espoused Islamic socio-cultural values and held deep suspicion for all things Western and Christian. As a young man and the eldest son, he followed the family vocation and became an Imam. To promote his family tradition of Islamic custodianship, Ashafa joined a fanatical Islamic group committed to completely Islamizing the North and chasing away all non-Muslims from the region. Ashafa became the leader of this militant group and also the Secretary General of the Muslim Youth Councils. The Muslim Youth Councils incited great violence in the North, which resulted in the Christians creating their own counter organization, the Youth Christian Association of Nigeria, led by Pastor Wuye.
Born in Kaduna State, Pastor Wuye, an Assemblies of God Pastor, was the son of a soldier who served in the Biafran War. From a young age, Wuye was fascinated by battle and war games. In the 1980s and 1990s he was involved in militant Christian activities and served as Secretary General of the Kaduna State chapter of the Youth Christian Association of Nigeria, an umbrella organization for all Christian groups in Nigeria for 8 years. He recounts that his “hatred for the Muslims had no limits”. He hated seeing people being intimidated and abused, so when Muslims were blamed for inciting a violent conflict in Kaduna, he immediately volunteered to lead a reprisal attack. He lost his right arm during one of the battles against Ashafa’s militant group in Kaduna; increasing his vengeance and deep hatred for Muslims in general and Ashafa in particular.
Ashafa also experienced loss at the hands of Pastor Wuye. In one of the violent clashes between Muslim Youth Councils and Youth Christian Association of Nigeria, two cousins and Ashafa’s spiritual mentor died while fighting Pastor Wuye’s Christian group. For years, both Ashafa and Wuye vowed to avenge the deaths and injuries of their loved ones by killing each other. However, a chance meeting in 1995 brought the two clerics together and through intermediaries and months of soul searching, both leaders decided to lay down their arms and work together to end the destructive violence plaguing their country. This chance meeting and Imam’s extension of the olive branch to Wuye led to the formation of the Interfaith Mediation Center of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Forum.
Their collective work in peace building began in 1997, and they have since managed to spread their messages of conflict-resolution to all corners of the globe. Their work has earned them numerous accolades including the Peace Activist Award of the Tanenbaum Center of Interreligious Understanding; a joint Honorary Doctorate degree in Philosophy bestowed upon them in Kolkata, India; a Heroes of Peace Award from Burundi; Search for Common Ground on Interfaith Cooperation Award USA; and the Bremen Peace Award from the Threshold Foundation on interreligious reconciliation, among others.
Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye have designed a strategy to both prevent religious and political violence and resolve it when it happens. Their early-warning mechanism, developed in 1996, helps communities identify inflammatory situations and provides the means to reduce tensions. For instance, Ashafa and Wuye defused potential violence surrounding the 2006 Dutch cartoon fiasco, which inflamed many communities around the world. Sensing danger, they immediately asked the heads of the Christian Associations of Nigeria to appear on radio and television to publicly condemn the negative depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in the cartoons, and asked the Chief Imams to accept the condemnation and ask for calm. Their tactic of publicly encouraging Muslim and Christian leaders to support each other and sign peace agreements has proven successful in building ties between the two communities and towards their shared goal of mitigating violence.
Another early-warning technique is the “deprogramming” of violent youth through Christian and Islamic instruction that emphasizes forgiveness and non-violence. To reverse a “theology of hate” that is often taught to children at home and in school, Ashafa and Wuye set up Peace Clubs in pre-school, primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions. The Peace Clubs have peace-building and peer-mediation components and involve class representatives who mediate conflict between classmates and teach their peers how to resolve conflicts peacefully.
Students throughout Nigeria receive religious instruction, and particularly in conflict prone states learn that one religion is superior to others. So in 1998 Ashafa and Wuye developed a curriculum entitled “The Ethical Code for Religious Instructions in Schools” which is now used in schools and by other organizations interested in promoting peace. Coupled with Peace Clubs, the curriculum is reducing religious violence in schools. To date, over 30 schools in the majority Muslim Kaduna state, and primary schools and universities in Plateau, Kano, and Bauchi states have Peace Clubs and peace curricula.
They also created “deprogramming” Youth Camps which bring together militant youths from different communities for 5 days of intensive interaction. Camp participants are involved in activities that replace demonization of those of a different faith with the humanization. These militant youth attend skill-building activities such as financial and computer literacy classes. Ashafa and Wuye have also trained youth leaders from across the country to become trainers in their communities.
In addition to their preventive work, Ashafa and Wuye also focus on peace building and resolution. Since 1997, they have been training religious leaders of both faiths on conflict mitigation and organizing peace-building workshops for community members. They organize seminars with opinion leaders and elders that encourage dialogue about differing views on politics, society, and law. There are also practical workshops that encourage good governance, legislation, budget tracking, and building bridges between communities and political and religious leaders.
Ashafa and Wuye also help communities use peace building methods that may have been forgotten or abandoned. They train women of both faiths to monitor elections and educate their communities on the electoral process. Their studies have shown a sharp decline in rigging and violence at polls where the women operate.
The pair offers trauma counselling for those who have suffered losses at the hands of religious violence and trains religious and community leaders to assist those affected by violence. Ashafa and Wuye use scriptures from their two holy books to help people deal with suffering and tragedy. They also force men to deal with the ramifications of trauma; challenging African notions that men should not show emotion.
Media outreach is their main approach to spreading their work beyond the areas where they operate directly. Both clerics have television shows dedicated to preaching the tenets of their respective faiths as well as peaceful co-existence. They are featured in a documentary on conflict resolution which was showcased at the UN headquarters, at the House of Commons in the UK, and in Washington DC. This was made into a case study by the Tanenbaum Center of Interreligious Understanding.
The Center comprises a Secretariat of 14 people (7 Muslims and 7 Christians) with joint deputyships, coordinators, and program managers. Ashafa and Wuye have a rotating portfolio of responsibilities and enjoy an equitable division of labor. The sensitive nature of their work requires participation of both the Imam and Pastor in the programming the Center offers. Due to the dangerous nature of their work, they have succession plans in place for appointed deputies to assume executive leadership positions should anything debilitating happen to them.
They have set up offices in three states in Nigeria, two in the North and one in the East, and have partnerships with various religious groups in other areas. To ensure widespread impact, Wuye and Ashafa set up committees and advisory councils made up of religious and community leaders to monitor peace-building efforts and provide feedback, using a hotline to report religious violence nationwide. At least two people (1 Muslim and 1 Christian) from each of Nigeria’s 36 states are trained in conflict resolution (with more staff in conflict-prone states) and stay in close communication with the Center’s headquarters in Kaduna state. Their work has also spread beyond Nigeria to Northern Ghana, Burundi and Kenya. Their Center is sustained through support from international donor and religious organizations, and local and regional governments in Nigeria.
Ashafa and Wuye want to bring peace to all nations plagued by religious violence. They have assisted organizations in Northern Ireland, Rwanda, and Native American communities in the United States. They also work with Muslim and Christian entities in conflict areas outside of Nigeria. They have partnered in Sudan with the New Sudan Islamic Council and the New Sudan Church Council and in Kenya with the Kenyan Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and the Kenyan Council of Churches. Their goal is to work with organizations in the Niger Delta region, Middle East peace groups, and are building an office with the African Union staffed with Muslim and Christian practitioners.
Their next steps include the construction of an Interfaith Peace Village, with land donated by the Kaduna state government. They are planning to host a summit on peace and religious harmony which will convene religious leaders and peace practitioners from across Africa. Because they believe peace building without development is ineffective, they have organized Muslim and Christian women rice farmers to work together as an effective peace building and income generation scheme.