In an effort to promote the freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), women and youth inclusion, the Joint Initiative For Strategic Religious Action (JISRA) through its implementing partner, the Justice Peace and Reconciliation Movement (JPRM) organized a two-day intra-religious training. The event, which took place at the JPRM Peace and Conflict Center (POCC) from Monday, 15th May to Tuesday, 16th May 2023, brought together religious leaders, traditional leaders, women, and youths from Farin Gada and Mista Ali Communities in Plateau State with the aim of establishing a formidable force at the state and local levels.

The training session served as a platform for dialogue, knowledge sharing, and capacity building on intra-religious issues and allowed participants to deepen their understanding of interfaith cooperation and strengthen their commitment to fostering peace and harmony in their respective communities. With representatives from various religious backgrounds, the event provided a unique opportunity for individuals to transcend religious boundaries and work together towards a common goal.

The first day of the training featured insightful sessions on the importance of religious harmony, the role of religious leaders in conflict resolution, and strategies for promoting justice and reconciliation within the Christain communities of Farin Gada and Mista Ali in Plateau State. While the second day had the same session for the Muslim communities of Farin Gada and Mista Ali in Plateau State.

Experts and experienced facilitators led interactive discussions, encouraging participants to share their perspectives and experiences. The engaging sessions emphasized the significance of religion and interfaith cooperation in tackling societal challenges, promoting freedom of religion, and nurturing a culture of peace.

The lead facilitator for the first-day training, Dr. Ephriam Yakubu Simon, from the Christain council of Nigeria, Peace Building and Trauma Center, said it was a refresher training with discussions centered on the sanctity of life, respect for humanity, peacebuilding, gender sensitivity and justice.

Dr. Yakubu further stated that it was important to learn what the various leaders have done within their communities and be able to encourage them to implement what has been learned and also urge them to engage in peace-building activities in their communities and make interventions in areas where there are conflicts.

Hajiya Amina Mohamed, Executive Director for Women Initiative for Sustainable Community Development while facilitating the second-day training, stated that the importance of being together cannot be overemphasized irrespective of religion, tribe and ethnic differences.

She said that some of the lesson being discussed at the training was already embedded in the teachings of both religions promoting love and peaceful coexistence. She said the project has provided a safe space for the participants to critically look at some of the lessons from both religions and assist the participants to come up with initiatives and strategies for togetherness while remaining and practicing their faith.

Elder Justina Mike Ngobia, Executive Director JPRM and a co-facilitator stated that the project while centering on how to unite communities together for peace, emphasized the need for freedom of religion in Nigeria. She said communities have to come together to agree on how to build resilience against factors that prevent religious freedom.

She said the communities identified for the training were communities residing together as Muslims and Christians that have had histories of conflicts as such the need to bring them together to understand and respect humanity and promote peace and justice for all.

A participant, Pastor Samuel Botmang, a religious and community leader from Farin Gada, Angwan Jarawa Community said that such training was important considering that Nigeria is a multicultural community as such the importance of learning how to live and move with diverse persons within the communities and to guide others.

Mrs Agnes Williams, A women Leader for Angwan Jarawa in Farin Gada community stated that the training was essential for leaders to be able to build their communities towards harmonious existence. Other women leaders including Aishatu Usman from Sabon Layi Community in Farin Gada and Mrs Sarah Gandu from Mista Ali Community, said that the training has assisted them in organizing other community members, reaching out to the difficult parts of the community and other restive youths thereby also enabling them to sensitize their various communities on the need for religious tolerance and harmonious living. Umahani Musa a female youth leader from Mista Ali community also stated that fostering peace and religious tolerance has gone a long way in promoting peace in the community.

A Youth leader from Mista Ali community, Musa Abdul said the project has further built them to be able to resolve tensions and conflicts within the community. He said the refresher training was also an opportunity to count on the successes and build on them.

Participants actively collaborated in group activities and workshops, exploring ways to champion freedom of religion, belief, unity and engagement at the state and local levels. The discussions delved into the mobilization of religious and traditional leaders, the education of women and youths, and the promotion of inclusive structures in local communities. The goal was to equip the participants with the necessary tools and knowledge to become effective agents of change within their respective communities.

Speaking at the close of the program, the Project officer Mrs. Nenekenso Tupkenenka and the DMEAL Officer, Jil Nanbyen Tegha expressed their gratitude to all the participants for their enthusiastic engagement and commitment to building bridges across religious divides. They emphasized the importance of continued collaboration and urged the participants to apply the knowledge gained during the training to foster intra-faith and interfaith dialogue, peacebuilding, and reconciliation within their communities.

The Joint Initiative For Strategic Religious Action (JISRA) is a consortium with 3 INGO’s; Mensen met een missie (working in Nigeria through CAFOD), Tearfund and search for common ground and 7 local NGO’s JPRM, DIWA, RURCON, DREP, FOMWAN, WIC and SUWA. The project is set to promote issues of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), women and youth inclusion and working in Plateau and Kaduna states.

As the training came to a close, participants left with renewed determination and a shared commitment to championing Intra-faith and interfaith collaboration, justice, peace, and reconciliation within their communities. It is hoped that the knowledge and experiences gained from this training will create a ripple effect, leading to transformative actions and a more harmonious society.

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