In the vast Middle Belt and Northeastern Nigeria, death, destruction and conflict have driven over 2 million people into destitution disease and hunger, caused by Boko Haram Jihadist terrorist and Islamic Fulani herdsmen. Christians have been the vulnerable and soft targets for radical Islamic sects for decades.
In Jos thousands of people have been killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians. It is, however, in a small Christian community in Mai Adiko, Rayfield Jos, Central region of Nigeria that Christian and Muslim leaders have developed an oasis of peaceful coexistence in the last three years.
What seemed impossible about four years ago has been achieved. Muslim leaders and Imams have entered and interacted with Christians in the St Christopher’s Anglican Church in Mai Adiko while the Christian Women and youths have built a level of understanding and trust where they cook and eat together, visit and teach one another entrepreneurial skills. “It’s been lovely to see the Christian women and muslims working together to make beautiful things, I am wearing one of the beads they made right today, they are so beautiful,” said Baroness Caroline Cox on a visit to the community.
Baroness Caroline Cox, challenged the Church in northern Nigeria. ”I say to the churches here up on the front line of persecution, thank you. We are very impressed too by the efforts you are making to reach out to muslims to build bridges, to heal wounds, to empower, especially the women who often have difficult times in these communities.”
The Most Rev Benjamin Kwashi, Anglican Archbishop of Jos province said, “It took time, patience and perseverance to get here. Showing love is expensive, you will be vulnerable but you have to commit time and resources. Jesus gave up everything to reach out to us and so must we, as Christians, to reach out to others with the testimony of who we are as Christians.”
The Imam and Muslim community leader, Mallam Danjuma Mohammed said, “The only time we have seen anything like this was when the Christian missionaries came from London many years ago and brought schools and hospitals. We are grateful that Pastor Hassan John took it upon himself to reach out to us muslims. He teaches our women how to be skilful and productive. He takes all the risks and has paid hospital bills for our muslim women. This is the Christianity we knew.”
Zainab Yahaya, one of the women leaders declared, “I am excited. I wish we muslims can reciprocate this. We still have muslims who are soiling the name of Islam but we here are determined to work with Christians.” The Muslim women took their time to show off skills they have acquired to Caroline Cox and the HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust) team that visited Nigeria.
“We must love Muslims as people, we must reach out to Muslims as brothers and sisters. We are all part of our Lord’s creation but also we must be very aware of the treats from the militant Islamism, the kind of Boko Haram and where there is aggressive Islam determined to establish its caliphate. That is what we need to pray about,” Baroness Cox declared.
The Peace building initiative was started by Hassan John who is now West Africa editor of Global Christian News in 2013. The HART foundation has supported this initiative to reach out to Muslim and Christian youths in the community in Nigeria.