#ChallengeExtremism: Faith Groups in Mubi United by AUN Students’ Workshop

AUN students have recorded a major breakthrough reconciling estranged Christians and Muslims in Mubi, an Adamawa town that was sharply divided by religion after it survived Boko Haram invasion.  

Christian and Muslim self-protection groups, for the first time, trained together and shared their survival stories during a Stories-for-Peace workshop. Jointly organized by our students and a Mubi youth group, “Illusions of Reflection,” the training was part of the students’ peer-to-peer #ChallengeExtremism campaign tagged #IAmABeliever.   The campaign seeks to make the faithful see themselves beyond their beliefs.

More than 500 members of the Boys Brigade, a non-denominational Christian security group, and the Nigerian Aid Group of the Jama’atul Nasril Islam attended the workshop.  Two respected religious leaders, Sheikh Hamid Hammad and the Reverend Ezekiel Williams, also attended.

Sheikh Hammad lauded the storytelling workshop and highlighted the importance of true and uniting stories in peace-building.  “It’s a welcome idea…  When telling stories, please make sure what you are going to tell is genuine and is not going to cause any conflict in society.”

The Rev. Williams, a leader of the Boys Brigade, shared stories of how he escaped with 50 other Christians after being trapped in Mubi under Boko Haram for five days.  He attributed their survival and escape to divine intervention.  Other Christians and Muslims shared similar stories of their close shave with death, personal losses, and trauma when Boko Haram attacked.

Prof. Jacob Jacob of SAS, who moderated the story-telling sessions, said that throughout human history, shared stories have played a crucial role in bringing peoples and communities together.  “Stories provide a shared space for everyone to experience the tribulations and triumphs of others; this can help bind a people together.”

After stories from both Christians and Muslims, it was observed that the experiences of Muslims during the invasion were not much different from what Christians experienced.  Both groups suffered personal losses, including loved ones.  “Instead of being divided, we should help bind each other’s wounds, for our tribulations and trials are not different after all,” Jacob said.

Another highlight of the event was a joint protection training operation for the Christian and Muslim groups.  Assistant Vice President of Security and Safety Operations, Dr. Lionel von Frederick Rawlins, led the training on methods of protecting religious places from terrorist attacks.

Dr. Rawlins charged both groups to consider working together to protect each other’s places of worship.

The Stories-for-Peace workshop closed with a 500-meter walk for peace where Muslims and Christians, hand in hand, marched to the gate of Adamawa State University in Mubi.  The university was among the educational institutions sacked by Boko Haram during the 2014 invasion. Nigerian security forces liberated Mubi last year, but tensions and mutual suspicion between Christian and Muslim groups continued to threaten the fragile peace.   The AUN students’ campaign helped bring both groups together to create a path for sustainable reconciliation.

The #IAmABeliever campaign is organized by students of CMD 412 (Public Diplomacy & Strategic Media Intervention).  The course is part of a global university initiative to challenge extremism, with funding from the Education and Cultural Affairs Bureau of the US State Department and Facebook.

 

By Zamiyat Abubakar

American University of Nigeria
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Adamawa State, Nigeria

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