By Okeoghene Akubuike
Cardinal John Onaiyekan has said that effective dialogue has the potential of resolving all kinds of conflicts.
He also called on well meaning Nigerians to support programmes aimed at building peace across the country.
Onaiyekan said this on the sidelines of the Graduation ceremony for fellows of the 2018/2019 Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP) Fellowship Programme on “Interreligious Dialogue and Mediation” in Abuja.
The fellowship had 35 fellows comprised of 18 Christians and 17 Muslims drawn from the six geopolitical zones.
They include 22 males and 13 females from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in Nigeria.
“I’m sure there are many Nigerians when they hear that the Cardinal Onaiyekan foundation is giving a certificate to a Miyetti Allah secretary, they will say what is happening here.
“Yes! They should ask what is happening here. What is happening here means there is no such thing as an inevitable conflict.
“Every conflict can be resolved, once you are able to sit down together look at each other face to face, you will now realise that every human being is just exactly like you, like your brother, your cousin which is what you have seen.
“And I thank God this is happening in an organisation that bears my name. I will be happy to see more and more organisations like this that are set up.
“We got the money, the seed money from America although we raised local funds, my hope is that having proved that this formula is a viable formula, we will be able to reach out to Nigerians to give us the money to do it.
“The GHR foundation as we are told is a family foundation, its just a family that happen to be very rich and decided to spend their money doing good all over the world.
“Haven’t we got many rich families in Nigeria with billions buying houses in Dubai and never once thinking about doing good for the community. It’s a shame. I wont even talk about government because this is one of the things the government should be supporting.’’
Mary Dalsin, Programme Associate, GHR foundation, who spoke to NAN expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the programme.
She said that the impact of the programme was already yielding fruitful results in some communities were the fellows were drawn from.
“The fellows have said how important it was that Nigerians were sharing their experience and teaching them about interreligious action, about interreligious dialogue, about tolerance, conflict resolution, project design.
“Because so often it is foreigners flying in and telling them the western way and then leaving and there is no one to ask questions.
“So the fellows have really resonated that it really means so much to them that they are working with their fellow Nigerians,
“The camaraderie that has been established amongst diverse religions, diverse ethnic communities, men and women all seeing each other first and foremost as peace builders is very evident in the community that has been established here.
“And if you look at the action projects that each fellow did in their own communities, the resounding, resonating impact in their community is amazing.
“Just for the fact that the Fulani in the Miyetti Allah cattle breeders association in Plateau, in Bassa and the Irigwe youth movement came together, is the first time they have actually spoken and it was really borne out of this event.
“It was borne out of their own desire to bring peace to their communities, it was not brought in by outsiders, the state levels or foreigners and they have created their own peace plan and they are going forward with it, try to implement it, which is amazing.
“It is so empowering to see they have actually taken on the idea that they have the power to make change that they want to see in their communities.”
She said the GHR foundation based in Minnesota, USA, is a family foundation that funds effort to bridge people, ideas and organisations.