How can religions wisely build peace in our societies?
The Lutheran World Federation organized its first interfaith “Peace Messengers Training” in September 2017. The participants gained skills and tools on advocacy, negotiation and mediation. They also learned how to combine such capacity with individual experiences, faith and cultural traditions.
During Advent a blogpost prepared by one of the participants will be shared every week alongside a prayer inspired by their words.
Responsibility of religious leaders for nurturing peace in society
Peacebuilding is an essential part of human life in many countries today. Conflict has taken over so many communities around the world including my own, Nigeria.
Religious conflict is one of the issues that have gone deep into the ‘bone marrow’ of our societies. Structural religious conflict has been sanctioned by some Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. It has become a vicious circle that manifests itself in politics and traditional authority. The results of such bias include unequal opportunities for all citizens, domination by either group in the work place and other forms of discrimination.
From my personal experience in the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, clergy in both churches and mosques emphasized that their members should elect only candidates who belonged to their own religious group. This caused rigging in the election and discontent among the respective religion’s members.
What then is our religious role in peacebuilding?
As religious leaders, it is good to know that we have a task of establishing peace in our societies. The religious leaders are the closest to the citizens at the grassroots. We have closer influence, and should therefore bear the burden of living in peace right from our hearts, our families and communities. We should teach and influence others to be followers of a peaceful life.
Together with my Muslim colleague Isa Al-Musawi Umar, we participated in the Peace Messengers Training organized by The Lutheran World Federation and hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land from 21 to 28 September 2017 in Jerusalem. I learnt new perspectives about building peace, one of which is “Faith as a basis for peacebuilding and advocacy.”
The religious leaders are the closest to the citizens at the grassroots. We have closer influence, and should therefore bear the burden of living in peace right from our hearts, our families and communities.
From my own background in Nigeria, I have also seen how religions can serve as channels for implementing and sharing such knowledge among the faithful for effective peacebuilding in our communities and even globally.
I would therefore like to offer some tips on the role of religious in peacebuilding. We should:
- Know that religion has a strong influence on people’s belief or faith and conviction. Our religious practice should bring positive change to society and enhance mutual relationships among us in order to live in peace with one another.
- Know that peace or conflict can have an effect on us either as victims or perpetrators.
- Have a sense of forbearance and unity towards other religions, knowing that in spite of all our differences, God created us all human beings in God’s image in order to complement one another.
- Build relationships of trust with other religions.
- Stand together to challenge any form of injustice, and emphasize that PEACE cannot stand without JUSTICE.
- Use our religion as a means of fostering unity among all people.
Levi Joniel, 22, is a Sunday school teacher in the Gombi Shall-holma Diocese of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, and a student at the Bronnum Lutheran Seminary in Yola, in the northeastern state of Adamawa. In September, he joined young people from Christian and Muslim backgrounds around the world at a week-long LWF training on peacebuilding skills and practice in the Holy Land.
God of peace,
During this season of Advent, we watch for your coming reign of peace. Equip us to prepare the way for its coming by building relationships of goodwill among all people of every race, religion and language. Inspire us with the good news that your reign has come in the Christ child, and by your Holy Spirit it comes anew each day. We pray un the name of the Prince of Peace, who was, is and is to come. Amen.