It is world peace day and Nigerians join the rest of the world to mark the day amidst a flurry of activities. The day is set aside and dedicated to peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, it has acquired the status of a day of reconciliation and ceasefires amongst warring parties.
The ideals that the day stands for are such that every right thinking person world over would associate with.
As I sat today in a cab ruminating over issues in my country, headlines of newspapers flashed by carrying declarations by political leaders of the indivisibility of the nation. Sadly, it crossed my mind for a moment that Nigeria is really on the brink and the greatest thanks go to these same leaders who pay lip service to our peace and unity and yet craftily explore our natural differences (which ironically is supposed to be our strength) to deepen disharmony, cause confusion, create animosity and open up fertile grounds for violence. The reason is simply to earn material, monetary and political profits.
Violence in all forms, lately, has escalated in numbers and intensity in Nigeria some of these under the façade of religious, tribal and other primordial differences. The North has particularly been a hard hit.
Whilst our political leaders may have the greatest blame for escalating conflicts, it is important to know that Nigerians themselves must rise above these sentiments and pursue peace with vigour, knowing that the cost of war is always greater than that of peace.
Religion has particularly been a major cover for some of the acts of aggression yet most religions advocate peace at all cost. Religious leaders must see themselves as called upon to embark on interfaith conflict resolutions or peace building. In this regards, the works of a local evangelical pastor, James Wuye, and a local imam, Mohammed Ashafa who have been bringing together for the key leaders from the Muslim and Christian communities in Yelwa-Nshar (Plateau State) in intense, emotional meetings, they used a combination of interfaith dialogue and conflict resolution techniques to promote reconciliation. Their work resulted in a peace agreement between the two communities that has been supported by the State and celebrated. Wuye and Ashafa have also turned to Jos also in Plateau State, where a similar peace accord was reached and signed. Their work continues to this day. The story of these two is truly an illuminating one as they had both been victims and villains in the cycle of religious violence in their communities and they decided, having of course, observed the futility and insensibility of violence decided to work together to promote peace between and within members of the different faiths.
On this day, we must cast our minds back, to the history of violence in our nation, we must also look at other nations who have lately experienced serious violence and glean from them, that when there is war, children, women and families suffer, bonds are broken, lives are changed forever and a few selfish people profit. We can not allow these people to take such profit, we must act for peace!
Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.
The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.
The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war.
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit