The Boko Haram militia group drives a wedge between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Two religious leaders are working together for peaceful co-existence among the different groups.
In Germany, the archbishop and the Emir are seated next to each other laughing, but the reason for their visit is quite serious. The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development ( BMZ ) invited them to discuss about the role of interfaith dialogue in times of Boko Haram.
Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama is the chairman of the Interreligious Committee for Peace in Nigeria and the Nigerian Bishops' Conference. He is convinced that religion is not the cause of violence in northern Nigeria, but rather the solution. "Unfortunately religion is used for the wrong purposes," he says. "It is politicized. It is abused and used to kill other people. Religion has nothing to do with the spread of terror by the Islamist Boko Haram militia." This is message that he and emir Muhammadu Muazu Mohammed, both of whom come from the Nigerian federal state of Plateau, want to get across. "I am full of hope that Nigeria can get over these tensions, if we reach more people," says Kaigama.
"Working with those close to the people"
A conviction, which is shared by Thomas Silberhorn. As Parliamentary State Secretary at the BMZ, he works closely with religious leaders in Nigeria. "The emir and the archbishop are a very positive example of inter-religious dialogue," said Silberhorn. He received the two religious leaders in Berlin for a series of dialogues about "Religion Matters – Rethinking the future." According to Silberhorn, the German Federal Government attaches great importance to working with those "close to the people." Kaigama and Muazu are religious leaders who also reach the younger generations. This is particularly important in the most populous country in Africa where 160 million people live
A city torn between terror and peaceful co-existence
In the past, Jos, which is the capital of Plateau State, has seen bloody confrontations between Muslims and Christians. The terrorist group Boko Haram planted several bombs aimed not only at Christians. In early July an attack in a mosque and a restaurant killed 44 people.
Emir Mohammed and archbishop Kaigama engage in efforts to promote harmonious coexistence between the two religious groups: "Christian and muslim youths in Jos go together to the mosque, they pray together and take care of each other" says Mohammed. The same applies to the churches: "The muslims are invited to see that prayers takes place peacefully without agitation against them."
This kind of message unfortunately finds very little mention in the media, regrets Kaigama. "The media exaggerate in their coverage of Nigeria," the archbishop said. It is true that there are inconsistencies, "but when it is generalized, that it was a war between christians and muslims, it does not bring out the truth. It is more about economic disparities between the north and the south of the country, the prospects of young people and to the lack of political will to do something about the situation.'
According to Secretary of State Silberhorn politicians forget that religion also plays a positive role especially in Nigeria. "For many people religion is very important in their personal lives. Therefore international relations cannot be effectively maintained, if you ignore the power of religion." Politicians must understand that religion influences political relations. That is the beginning of the path towards peace and non-violence in Nigeria.