From 25th -26th October, 2013, 156 delegates from three continents gathered at the Treasures Inn & Suites, Jos, Nigeria for the 5th annual Conference on Youth and Interfaith Dialogue in Jos, Nigeria. This year’s them was “The Role of Free and Responsible Media Toward a Peaceful Society Imbued with Dignity and Mutual Respect”. The conference is produced annually by New Era Educational and Support Foundation and this year included the additional partnership of the United Religions Initiative who had previously been involved in 2011.
The format of this conference includes a round table discussion which brings an interfaith group of youth together from Europe, North America and Africa to engage in a dialogue with political, social and faith leaders on a variety of topics from the media’s role in creating and promoting a peaceful society, what role can young people take in promoting world peace and Christian/Islam peace building efforts in Nigeria.
By the end of the two-day event, participants resolved to do the following:
1. Establish the Golden Rule Chapter in Nigeria to serve as a platform for the entrenchment of mutual respect, tolerance and upholding of human dignity. A National Steering Committee was constituted to that effect and the first meeting was conducted. The Committee will meet again on 7th December to marshal the way forward and plan towards the celebration of the Golden Rule Day on April 5th, 2014.
2. The citizenry and mass media should have an attitudinal and behavioral change on the taste of content.3. The mass media and people working in the area of peace should give voice to younger people and involved them in peace building activities4. The mass media and people working in the area of peace should create an inclusive and divergent platform5. The media should promote responsible citizenship so as to cultivate the culture of non violence through reports that promote human dignity and patriotism.6. We should all be committed to peace building process and not leave it in the hands of few individuals or groups.7. All citizens must show practical commitments to peace building in their respective communities by encouraging and getting involved in activities that promote peace8. Create and promote an ideal vision of a peaceful society irrespective of our diversity in ethnicity, religion, and abilities and otherwise.9. Translation of the golden rule in various Nigerian languages and working with teachers and schools to enshrine it in school curriculum10. The Golden Rule and the URI Talking Back to Hate Campaign should be introduced as a community development service (CDS) group in the NYSC Scheme and in schools in Colleges.11. Wherever there is violence of any nature, we should come out openly to challenge and condemn it, because it is not culturally, religiously or otherwise accepted.12. Irrespective of our religious affiliations, we ought to teach young religious leaders to teach the truth and the right thing and to avoid inflammatory sermons that could incite the citizens.13. We should all work towards ensuring a strong and fair judicial system.
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Greetings, Peace and blessings to you. We are very pleased to send you report of our Ongoing Youth Solidarity Fund Project, supported by the UNAOC. The Project, “Building Youth Capacity for Peace and Good Governance in Nigeria” is a 6-month project implemented by New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation and supported by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Initiative through its Youth Solidarity Fund, 2013 Edition. The project aims at diminishing gaps, healing wounds, and leading participants to experience face-to-face forgiveness, and thereby changing the fabric of Nigeria person-to-person, as familiarity and trust increases. The project will support young Nigerians in their healing process with three components:
(1) moving toward forgiveness by giving voice to carefully-listened-to personal life narratives, with the experience that "an enemy is one whose story we have not heard," (2) an educational, intellectual framework of sound psychological, biological and spiritual principles of a life-lived that leads toward healing, and reconciliation, and (3) Responsible outreach with grass-roots initiatives that includes vastly more citizens awakening to build authentic Nigerian community, beyond war, living united as one. The project will help Nigerian youth to build strong cross-cultural relationships. It will provide youth meaningful purpose and active roles in their communities. The training will provide life skills of dignifying one another through communication excellence in peacebuilding.
The project will help the participants to socialize across boundaries of culture and faith and experience volunteerism from a faith-based community of youth and educators. Participants will visit religious sites to draw from the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of humanity to become Young Peace Ambassadors. Target groups for the project include 150 male and female representatives of youth groups and associations, community leaders including religious leaders and teachers in Jos North and South. The participants will learn about each other face-to-face, in a culturally neutral environment of fun and cooperative creativity. They will learn to deconstruct stereotypes that fuel fear and ignorance of the “other” in order to build respect and trust.
From 8th – 9th August, 2013, the project hosted 20 teachers drawn from Nine secondary schools in Jos North and Jos South Local Government Areas of Plateau State, for a 2-Day Teacher Training on Peace Education, Negotiation Skills, Advocacy and Conflict Transformation utilizing Non-Violence Approaches. The 2-Day Training was conducted at the Assembly Hall of Creative Minds International Academy, Jos, Nigeria. The Participants were drawn from Creative Minds International Academy, Jos, Ziebok Private School, Jos, United Baptist Model School, Jos, Yedi Private School, Jos, Liberty Comprehensive College, Jos, Remus Private School, Fed Lowcost, Jos, St. Bucknor Peculiar Academy, Kufang, Jos, Christ Arrival College and Zang Commercial, Bukuru, Jos.
The Facilitators were experienced trainers from the USA, Japan and Nigeria. Ema Miroslava Billings hold a Masters Degree in Conflict Transformation with a focus on Psychosocial Trauma Healing at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at the Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), Harrisonburg, VA USA, and is very passionately dedicated to peace and psychosocial trauma and well being theory and practice, has great analytical and strategic thinking skills. Ema demonstrates even greater awareness and deep care for people in conflict situations. Akiko Ishihara, MA MPH from Tokyo, Japan is an associate professor of conflict transformation and peacebuilding at Kumamoto University, Japan. She is passionate about sharing conflict transformation and peacebuilding ideas with youth and adults, and working in the affected areas by the nuclear disaster in Japan. Dr. Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba is an Educator, a success-driven visionary, Community Builder, Peace activist and Conflict Resolution Practitioner with several years experience conducting mediation, training and facilitation, especially in West Africa. He is the Executive Director of New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation. Peter Ijigue Monkom is the Project Coordinator for the “Building Youth Capacity for Peace and Good Governance in Nigeria”.
Training modules included: Advocacy, Understanding Conflict, Introduction to Communication, Communication Techniques, Creating a Culture of Peace, Peace Education & Negotiation. The Participants were 20 Secondary School teachers, both male and female in gender along with representing both the Muslim and Christian faiths. The participants’ knowledge base of conflict and building a culture of peace ranged from little awareness to well informed. Many viewed conflict as an unnecessary evil when asked to share their views of conflict though later learned that conflict is a natural aspect of life.
Friday, 16th August 2013, Four (4) members of the Project Advocacy and Community Mobilization Team, led by NEEDCSI Executive Director and the Project Coordinator, conducted a Project Advocacy Meeting with the Special Adviser on Peacebuilding to the Plateau State Governor, Hon. Barrister Timothy Baba Parlong, at his office in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. During the Advocacy Meeting, the Project Team said they were at the office of the Special Adviser on Peacebuilding to the State Governor to formally inform the Government about the project and to seek official support and collaboration towards the overall success of the project. The Project Team also presented copies of Advocacy and IEC including Car Stickers and T-Shirts developed and produced by the project to the Special Adviser on Peacebuilding. The Special Adviser expressed delight and congratulated the Project Team for being selected as finalists and eventual Winners of the UNOAC Youth Solidarity Fund, 2013 Edition, as pledged the support and collaboration of the State Governance, through his office, towards ensuring that the projects succeeds. Seven (7) were present and actively participated in the meeting.
Further details of project implementation are also available at our project website: http://needcsi-unoacysf2013edition.webs.com/
In May 2013, New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation is partnered with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), UNESCO and a wide coalition of partners from corporations to civil society to launch the 2013 world campaign “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion”, aimed at engaging people around the world to Do One Thing to support Cultural Diversity and Inclusion. Following the adoption in 2001 of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 21 as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
In Jos, the Plateau State, Nigeria’s “Home of Peace and Tourism”, the “2013 Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion Conference”, was conducted at the Main Conference Hall of CRUDAN GUEST House, Sabon Barki, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, to mark the United Nations World Day for Cultural Diversity and Inclusion for Dialogue and Development, on May 21, 2013, beginning from 8am to 4pm. The theme we chose for this year’s event in Jos, Nigeria was: Forging Peace Through Understanding and Inclusion. Three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability and development. The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live together better. The 2013 campaign, by encouraging people and organizations from around the world to take concrete action to support diversity, aims:
Cultural Diversity does matter. Cultural diversity is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life. This is captured in the seven culture conventions, which provide a solid basis for the promotion of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is thus an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development. At the same time, acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity – in particular through innovative use of media and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) – are conducive to dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding.
The event was very well attended by over 100 participants, representing the Government, Civil Society Groups, traditional, cultural and religious leaders, teachers and students. Arrival and Registrations commenced as early as 8am. After the prayers and brief introductions of Invited Guests, students of Creative Minds International Academy, Jos (www.creativemindsacademy.net), entertained participants for about thirty (30) minutes in traditional Africa songs and cultural dances. This was followed by the Welcome Address delivered by Dr. Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba, Executive Director of New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation, on behalf of the Organizers and collaborators. The Opening Statement was the presented by Hon. Elisha Buba Yero, Global Council Trustee for the United Religions Initiative (URI), a US-based International Organization promoting daily interfaith dialogue and a culture of Peace around the world. Participants then had the priviledge to listen to a video Goodwill Message for Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, United Nations High-Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, from New York, USA. More Goodwill Messages were received from the Hon. Commissioner, Plateau State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Hon. Barr. Timothy Parlong, Special Adviser to the Plateau State Governor on Peacebuilding, Mrs. Betty Alaribe, Founder and Proprietor, Victory International Schools, Mr. Godwin Okoko, Nigeria Country Representative of Apurimac Onlus, among others. Meals were then served from 10:0am – 11am.
A Special Discussion Session on the Theme: Forging Peace Through Understanding and Inclusion, including a Question and Answer Session then followed, facilitated by Ema Miroslava Billings, NEEDCSI’s Director of Development, from the Center for Justice and Peace of the Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA. A Keynote Address was also delivered by Nnaemego, Nkiruka Stella, BL. Law, MSc Social Work, PNM, MNIM, Founder/CEO of the Abuja-based Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FRESH). Group Discussions centered on the content of the Paper presented. The paper observed that that for peace to exist, citizens must learn to promote mutual respect, understanding and inclusion. Some of the Key ingredients for forging Peace highlighted at the Campaign include, but not limited to: Right Information, Interfaith Dialogue, Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue, Forums on Ethnicity and Religion, Use of ICT in Information Dissemination, Positive Engagement of Migrants, Public Consultations, etc.
An important major component of the 2013 Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion Campaign in Jos, Nigeria, was the Youth Interfaith Service-Learning Activity, to encourage peace through service projects and education among youths of different faith traditions in Plateau State, to help build up and encourage youths and families to live a life of strong moral value, recognizing that the peace of our communities, our nation and the world begins with the peace of the individual and to help participants to socialize across boundaries of culture and faith and to experience volunteerism from a faith-based community of youths, educators and experts.
50 Students, mainly from Christians, Muslims from Creative Minds International Academy and Victory International School, both in Jos, Nigeria participate in a 3-hour Interfaith Youth Street Cleaning Exercise. The Students cleared and burnt garbage along Michael Botmang Street in the Dadin Kowa District of Jos South Local Government Council.
KEY DECISIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
The women, men and Youth Participants at the 2013 Do One Thing Campaign in Jos, Nigeria, provided recommendations to decision-makers, institutions and individuals for dignifying everyone and our shared values. In a safe space, the Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion Campaign created a living model for prosperity, coexistence beyond war, and restoring friendships and trust. Key Decisions and recommendations included:
Photographs and Videos of our 2013 Do One Thing Campaign in Jos, Nigeria are now available at the following links: .Facebook Photos:
Friday 29th to Saturday 30th March, 2013, New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation hosted its 3rd Annual Youth Leadership Institute at the RURCON GUEST HOUSE, Old Airport Road, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. Participants were 20 Undergraduates selected from 12 Nigerian Universities. The Theme of this year's Youth Leadership Institute was "The Role of Young People in Nation Building".
The Resource Persons and Training Facilitators include: Ema Miroslava Billings from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg Virginia,USA, Mr. Godwin Okoko, Country Representative, APURIMAC ONLUS, NIGERIA, President, Plateau Peace Practitioners Network (PPPN), Mr. Kingsley Bangwell, Executive Director, Youngstars Foundation, Abuja,Nigeria, Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba, Executive Director of New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation, while Barrister Timothy Barlong, Special Adviser to the Plateau State Governor on Peacebuilding served as Special Guest.
The Training focused mainly on a new style of leadership that the world is calling for- Empathetic Leadership. Empathetic leadership involves considering what is important not only for career goals, but also understanding what is important for people’s well-being. Therefore, in order to be a strong empathetic leader, one needs to understand what contributes to well-being; first within oneself and then to others in community. Empathetic leadership involves leading from the heart. It is the foundation for happiness and a happy and prosperous society. Empathetic Leadership is deeply rooted in Social and Emotional Awareness.
Africa’s greatest need today is ethical and entrepreneurial leadership. Too often, we have invested in addressing the symptoms of bad leadership in Africa- we give blankets, medicine and food to those impacted by war, poverty and famine. But these efforts will never stop unless we develop leaders who prevent wars from occurring in the first place, entrepreneurs who create jobs and scientists who sustainably increase food production and access to healthcare. Our Youth Leadership Institute seeks to catalyze the emergence of a new generation of youth leaders who will participate effectively in forging a strong democratic, people-centred development and sustainable economic emancipation in Nigeria.
Major highlights of our Youth Leadership Institute include: entrepreneurial and financial management training; educational seminars on democracy and good governance, health, gender issues, human rights, citizenship and social responsibilities and a mentoring program that connects established and emerging youth leaders. The program empowers young people by supporting the creation of youth-generated activities that promote self-worth, responsibility and intergenerational respect and communication. The Program seeks to foster, develop and support youth initiative, and a strong representational youth voice in the service and decision-making life of our nation, and to engage youth as resources for peace, democracy and good governance, interfaith dialogue and agents for change, growth and sustainable development. The Youth Leadership Institute explores various models of leadership that have been developed from both a theoretical and practical perspective. The learning objectives of the Institute are primarily twofold:
Some Photographs of the training are now available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/needcsi/
The leadership development formula which we propose is relatively simple: we believe that by identifying young leaders with immense potential, enabling them to practice leadership and connecting them with transformative opportunities, we can help to develop and empower many more Mandelas, Nkrumahs, Obasanjos, etc.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION The Annual International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Dialogue has been held annually since 2009, in the City of Jos, the Plateau State Capital and Nigeria's "Home of Peace and Tourism". The Inaugural International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Communication was held in October 2009 at the National Library of Nigeria, beside the Plateau State Polytechnic, Jos, with over 250 participants. This was then followed by the 2nd Annual International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Communication in October 2010 at the Leadership Institute, Tudun Wada GRA, Jos, with tremendous support and facilitation from the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group. The 3rd Annual International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Communication was held in October 2011 at the Rockfield Motel, Rayfield, Jos, in collaboration with the California USA-based The Voices of Angels Foundation, United Religions Initiative, Interfaith Peace-Building Initiative (IPI) and Global Educators for All Initiative. At the 3rd Annual Conference, the 120 participants made a very passionate Appeal to End Religiously-motivated Violence in Nigeria Youth - with international adult mentors - successfully engage face to face applying new tools of communication and creativity to then take back home to their schools, communities, and nations. Challenging, practical workshops provide the "how-to" for citizens to create and sustain our collective social existence beginning with youth and faith that works in real life. Experiences in youth form the adult human being. Young adults are a major force in the contemporary world. Today's youth make new intellectual contributions and excel in mobilizing social networks and cooperation. A new breed of young adults insists on engaging, refusing to be enemies. Today's youth need and deserve appreciation and positive engagement, to help release their unprecedented social growth, creativity, and leadership that includes everyone, excludes nobody. CONFERENCE THEME: The theme of the 4th International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Dialogue was "Harnessing the Creative and Innovative Capacities of Youth and Women for Peacebuilding". As in previous years, the 4th International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Dialogue engaged participants in a dynamic experience of faith development as well as challenged them to positively respond to the universal call to holiness. The conference created and promoted interfaith collaboration as well as built bridges of trust, friendship and partnership among religiously diverse youth and provided a platform for local, national, regional and international collaboration. The various sessions were very practical -- rich with inspiration, international experience, and how-to, face-to-face workshops. Conference Participants practiced a new quality of listening-to-learn, to heal and create a new life among diverse groups in Nigeria, Africa and elsewhere. Above all, we all discovered that "an enemy is one whose story we have not heard." At the end, the participants returned home stronger with new partners and modern tools of communication for their homes, schools, and neighborhoods -- to heal their cities, Nigeria, Africa, all humankind. PARTICIPATION AND CONTENT The 4th International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Dialogue was attended by 156 participants, representing Government Ministries and Agencies, Civil Society Groups, NGOs, Faith-based Organizations within Nigeria and around the world. In the evening of 24th October, 2012, Participants arrived the Rockfield Motel, Rayfield, Jos and the RURCON Guest House, located along the Old Airport Road, beside Nigeria Airforce Base, Jos, respectively, where accommodation was reserved for them. Dinner was served from 7pm after which participants took time to rest after several hours of travelling. The Conference started formally on 25th October, 2012 at about 9am, at the Conference Hall of the Rockfield Motel, Rayfield, Jos, Nigeria. After the welcome address by the Conference Coordinator and Executive Director of New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation, Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba, PhD, the Conference was officially declared open by the Plateau State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hon. Barrister Olivia Dazem. The Keynote Address was delivered by Hon. Elisha Buba Yero, URI Global Council Trustee and Board Member, Interfaith Mediation Center, Kaduna, Nigeria, Retired Permanent Secretary and former Special Adviser to the Kaduna State Governor on Religious Affairs. Goodwill messages and remarks were also presented Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko, International Coordinator, Global Educators for All Initiative (GEFAI), Abuja, Hajia Lantana B. Abdullahi, Programs Officer, Search for Commons Grounds and Mr. Salika Dasa Adhikari, Temple President, International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Jos, Nigeria. Other dignitaries and facilitators included Chief Thomas H. Gofwen, Special Adviser to the Plateau State Government on NGOs/CSOs, Barrister Timothy B. Parlong, Special Adviser on Peacebuilding, Monica H. Gwom from the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Elder Dodo Chrisantus, Director in the Plateau State Ministry of Women Affairs, Amb. Chris Matur Ngyang from the State Ministry of Finance, Mr. Maji Peterx, Anchor Person, Carefronting-Nigeria, Africa Regional Coordinator and Lead Facilitator, Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Rev. Father James Vonti, Director of Religious Education, Catholic Diocese of Jalingo, Taraba State, Nigeria, Bartholomew Shepkong, M.A, Research and Outreach, Council For a Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago-USA, Hannington Wako, Coordinator, United Religions Initiative Africa Youth Network, from the URI Great Lakes Regions Office in Kampala, Uganda, Mr. Godwin Okoko, Country Representative, APURIMAC ONLUS-Nigeria and President, Plateau Peace Practitioners Network (PPPN), Mallam Dauda Saleh, Coordinator, Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Jos South & Islamic Teacher, Creative Minds International Academy, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria and Gad Shamaki Peter, Executive Director of the Centre for Advocacy on Justice and Rights, Mr. Ben Obge represented Youngstars Foundation, Abuja, among several others. A total of five Paper presentations were made at the conference, generating much discussions and contributions from participants. The Papers presented included: a. Christian Religious Education for a Culture of Peace by Rev. Father James Vonti, Director of Religious Education, Catholic Diocese of Jalingo, Taraba State, Nigeria b. Islamic Perspective on Peacebuilding in Nigeria by Mallam Dauda Saleh, Coordinator, Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Jos South & Islamic Teacher, Creative Minds International Academy, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria c. "The Role of Nigerian Youth in Peacebuilding", by Bartholomew Shepkong, M.A, Research and Outreach, Council For a Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago-USA d. "Reflections on Peace Efforts by Youths in East Africa" by Hannington Wako, Coordinator, URI Africa Youth Network, URI Great Lakes Region, Kampala, Uganda. e. Introduction to The Moral Imagination, by Emmanuel Ivorgba, Ph.D, Executive Director, New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation While Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko chaired the Plenary Session, the Global Listening Campaign (GLC) was facilitated by Bartholomew Shepkong, M.A, Research and Outreach, Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago-USA and Maji Peterx, Anchor Person, Carefronting-Nigeria, Africa Regional Coordinator and Lead Facilitator, Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), during which Conference participants broke into several Focus Groups of ten (10) participants each. Three (3) Organizations were recognized and honoured with the Exclusive Leadership Integrity Award for their outstanding commitments and efforts in peacebuilding in Nigeria, and around the world. These Organizations included: a. Plateau State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, in appreciation and acknowledgement of the Ministry's outstanding efforts in peacebuilding in Plateau State, women capacity building and empowerment, mediation and dialogue facilitation, healing and reconciliation. The Commissioner, Hon. Olivia Dazem received the Award in Person, on behalf of her Ministry. b. Search for Common Grounds, in appreciation and acknowledgement of the Organization's outstanding efforts in global peacebuilding, good governance and work with local partners to find culturally appropriate means to strengthen societies' capacity to deal with conflicts constructively: to understand the differences and act on the commonalities. Hajia Lantana B. Abdullahi, Programs Officer, received the Award on behalf of her Organization. c. Youngstars Foundation-Abuja, Nigeria, in appreciation and acknowledgement of the Organization's outstanding efforts in peacebuilding, democracy and good governance, leadership development and Youth Entrepreneurship. DISCUSSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS Conference Participants expressed profound optimism, hope and faith in current peacebuilding efforts and the commitment to building a better future. Discussions centered on developing the human potential to respond to the challenges emerging from misunderstandings in religions, regions and the world's resources, and on seeking ways to reconciling our relationship with our Common Creator, with fellow human beings and with the resources in our environment. As one Participant put it, "Our differences should not be mistaken to be inequality which makes some feel more valuable than others. Let us grow beyond a focus on our religions as points of identity and our regions as places of origins and the resources as our own wealth only". The important role of youth and women as indispensable primary actors in grassroots community development, peacebuilding and social transformation was emphasized. As the Plateau State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development noted at the conference, "Women are amongst the most vulnerable victims in war and conflict situations, yet they are also often the ones that trigger peace mechanisms. Hence, mobilization of women to participate in peace process is central to realizing peaceful co-existence. Once a woman is empowered, she is properly positioned to support her children to grow up into great contributors to development and will not be easy tools in the hands of mischief makers". Echoing this sentiment, Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko, mentioned rather comically that it was women who took peace out of the Garden of Eden, and so women must be empowered and supported to return peace to Eden and on Earth. The conference considered the great efforts of women participation and contribution to peacebuilding, such as Khadija, Aisha, Hannah and Esther, from Islamic and Christian records, while the Late Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Gambo Sawaba, and the actions of Liberian women who came together to end the civil war and find peace in their country, were some of the contemporary examples cited. The Conference also considered the significant role of religious education in building and promoting a culture of peace. Religious education's goal, according to Rev. Fr. James Vontih, Director of Religious Education of the Catholic Diocese of Jalingo, focuses on the "formation of the whole person, so that all may attain eternal salvation and at the same time promote the common good of the society". The conference then made practical suggestions and recommendations for fostering peace. The conference increased awareness and understanding of the nature, causes and impact of violence on families and communities, particularly those with ethnic or religious diversity, as well as provided knowledge and understanding of successful prevention strategies. Conference participants were engaged in developing implementable communications and public outreach strategy to promote peacebuilding, including a common action plan on the role of women, youth and educators in peacebuilding, including the process of building and accumulating capacities and empowerment to develop individuals and communities so that they are converted from perpetrators of violence to peacemakers and peacebuilders. As one Conference participant emphasized, "our world today, more than ever before is faced with the challenge of overcoming the faith divide and the global citizenship divide in order to build the bridge of all bridges; the interreligious and international bridge that connects all humanity to God". The conference inspired, supported and encouraged participants to accept and embrace the "Other" as potential co-creators of our collective future, as well as provided opportunities for networking and collaboration as we deliberately seek to serve and promote systemic change for the common good, including the provision of a model for interfaith cooperation and the breaking down of barriers, as we work together for right human relationships, justice, and an end to religiously-motivated violence, and care for the earth that we have all inherited. Participants at the Conference express their commitment to embracing our common humanity, respecting our differences and transforming the world we have inherited. Together, Conference participants visited religious sites in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, to draw from the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of humanity to become "Interfaith Ambassadors for Peace". The Conference explored religion as a source of conflict and as a resource for peace, focusing on how each of the faith traditions promote inclusion, peace, tolerance, or exclusion, prejudice or violence against others. Participants made a commitment to establishing a network of peace builders, and of keeping in touch, understanding and accepting others, sharing knowledge, building relationships with neighbors, peers and promoting friendship with others. This way, participants agreed will eliminate the predictable backbiting, gossip, mistrust and bigotry that flourish when interfaith dialogue is absent. RECOMMENDATIONS The women and men at the conference provided recommendations to decision-makers, institutions and individuals for dignifying everyone and our shared values. In a safe space, the Conference created a living model for prosperity, coexistence beyond war, and restoring friendships and trust. Key conference recommendations included: a. That Religious Organizations (Churches, Mosques, Temples, Shrines, etc) and policy makers must accept the responsibility of shaping the future and therefore work on a functional education that would enhance the people's commitment to peace and non-violence, education for critical social analysis and justice, education for reconciliation and social integration, entrepreneurship, self-reliance, wholesome spiritual, moral and material existence. b. That the society must return to true religion and spirituality, which transcends affiliation with one religion or another, but the positive transformation of the heart, transformation of greed into generosity, arrogance into humility, envy into appreciation of others, transforming hate into love, darkness into light, anxiety and stress into deep fulfilment, etc, being an instrument of the Inner Grace and the development of the universal human character of compassion, kindness and empathy. c. Policy makers must be encouraged and supported to create and provide a legal framework for the inclusion of Ethics and Morality, Religion and Peace Studies at all levels of the School curriculum, beginning at the Primary School level. d. Deliberate investment must be made towards the intellectual and character formation of the world's Youth, including the establishment of an Interreligious or Interfaith Youth Service Program, to encourage peace through service projects and education among youths of different faith traditions. This will help participants to socialize across boundaries of culture and faith and to experience volunteerism from a faith-based community of youths, educators and experts. e. That Inter-religious, interfaith and inter-cultural marriages should be encouraged and supported, as a way of seeking to close the ever widening religio-political and cultural divide threatening the nations of the world. This will also help build up and encourage youths and families to live a life of strong moral value, recognizing that the peace of our communities, our nation and the world begins with the peace of the individual. f. That each participant, where possible, return to the October 2013 Conference with detailed reports of what they have done as a result of their participation in this year's conference. This will help us to measure in concrete terms, the level of progress made in our collective peacebuilding efforts. IMPORTANT NEXT STEP ACTIONS In the next six (6) months, New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation shall conduct an evaluation activity by sending out questionnaires to all those who participated in the 4th International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Dialogue to assess how knowledge and skills learnt have been deployed and how this has impacted and transformed our communities. New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation shall also create an interactive website where participants can log on to share ideas, lessons, challenges and successes. APPRECIATION New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation greatly appreciates the generous financial and technical support of the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group of San Mateo, California, USA, which made it possible for us to conduct this year's conference. We remain ever grateful to Len and Libby Traubman for their faith, confidence and trust in us and our very modest efforts. We are also deeply grateful to the Plateau State Government, fully represented by the Hon. Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, along with Special Advisers to the Governor on NGOs/CSOs and that of Peacebuilding, United Religions Initiative (URI)-Africa Region, represented by Hon. Elisha Buba Yero, Global Council Trustee, Dr. Raphael Ogar Oko of the Global Educators for All Initiative, Abuja, Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago, USA, represented by Bartholomew Shepkong, Maji Peterx, Africa Regional Coordinator of the Alternative to Violence Projects, Rev. Fr. James Vontih, Director of Religious Education of the Catholic Diocese of Jalingo, Taraba State, Nigeria. Hajia Lantana Abdullahi of the Search for Common Grounds, Salika Dasa, President of the ISKCON Temple, Jos, Nigeria, Hannington Wako, Coordinator of URI Africa Youth Network from Kampala, Uganda, the Media, especially those from the Plateau Radio and Television Corporation (PRTVC), the Leadership Newspapers and Radio FM, Kano, and everyone who participated directly or indirectly at the conference. We sincerely appreciate the partnership and support of Mr. Godwin Okoko, Country Representative of APURIMAC Onlus-Nigeria, and Gad Peter Shamaki of the Center for Advocacy of Justice and Rights (CAJR) and members of the Plateau Peace Practitioners Network (PPPN) and the Civil Society Coalition towards the success of this conference. Special thanks also to the Guest House attendants who took good care of the participants and also provided good food for our nourishment. Full details of this report with photos are also available at: http://www.needcsi.org/2012/11/4th-international-interfaith-conference-report/ CONTACT US: New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation, RABO HOUSE, #1 Mazaram Road, Rayfield, P.0.B0X 6451, Jos Plateau State, Nigeria Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +234-8052627310 Website: www.needcsi.org
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