In September 2001, just a few days after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S., major violence broke out in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria and 900 people were killed. The conflict was primarily over land and it pitted indigenous people and settlers against one another. Because the settlers were almost entirely Muslim and the indigenous people predominantly Christian, the struggle over land ownership and access to its resources was sometimes framed as a religious conflict. The situation is much the same today.
During the riots of 2001, a young Muslim woman named Amina lost her brother, and her family lost much of its property to Christian attackers. Amina was convinced that Christians were planning the destruction of Muslims throughout Nigeria. She was bent on seeking revenge and joined an armed group that carried out attacks on Christians.
Amina’s father, however, encouraged her to attend a workshop on conflict transformation being offered by MCC. Although educated in Arabic and the Qu’ran he wanted his children to learn from western ideas and education. He thought his daughter should learn about “the other side.”
Amina reluctantly attended the 3-day workshop in 2003. By the third day she had experienced a transformation. The workshop demonstrated to her the power of nonviolence and conflict transformation. It also taught her that most Christians are not intent on harming Muslims. Today she is one of the strongest peace advocates the city of Jos has ever seen.
Based on Gopar Tapkida, “Christian-Muslim Relations in Nigeria: Mennonite Central Committee and Multi-Faith Peacebuilding,” in Borders and Bridges: Mennonite Witness in a Religiously Diverse World, edited by Peter Dula and Alain Epp Weaver (Telford, PA: Cascadia Press, 2007).
Attend MCC Ontario's Fall Conference on Nov 14 to see, hear, and experience first-hand how MCC is changing lives and communities through peacebuilding. More info at mcco.ca/fall-conference.