Religious violence has been a constant since the advent of religion itself, with people persecuting and killing those they perceive to be unbelievers for the sake of their faith. People of different faiths have struggled to co-exist as their distinct and unique beliefs have been used as justification for violence against the religious Other.
Nigeria has had more than its fair share of religious crises, being almost 50% Muslim and 50% Christian, these two religions have clashed in what has resulted in loss of lives and destruction of property. More recently, the Boko Haram insurgency has brought to international attention the religious tensions in Nigeria, and while it can be argued that the crises is no longer at its peak, there is a need to find a way for these two faiths to peacefully co-exist to end the apparent cycle of death and destruction in the name of religion.
Religious beliefs are generally seen as sacred and tend to provide justifications for extremism. Our purpose is to respect and validate everyone’s beliefs no matter how much they differ. Evidence from our research shows that as Nigeria is deeply divided across religious lines. Some Muslims fail to see Christians as believers in their own right, and the same applies to Christians. Our campaign revolves around a very simple yet profound message – Everyone’s beliefs are valid, however different they are from yours; everyone else is a believer too.
Our message emphasizes interdependence, inter-relatedness, shared beliefs and values, and a common sense of humanity. We seek to bring people together with everyone as a believer in his/her own right. We employ the help of Muslim and Christian religious leaders as advocates of the campaign.
We work with women and youths, mainly using social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp, and also using mainstream media, outreach events, and visits to universities and colleges to build a mutual alliance to challenge extremism. We have developed an online tool, Beliepedia to create a space for conversations between Islam and Christianity on common topics of interest. We do not seek to change or challenge anyone’s religious beliefs, rather we seek to validate and honor everyone’s religious beliefs as well as the believer.
WAVE - Women Against Violent Extremism
Our research has shown us that there is a rising trend of young girls and women being radicalized and used as suicide bombers, and even more suffer as victims of extremism as they face sexual, physical, and emotional trauma from the crises. From the kidnap of the 276 Chibok girls in 2014 and the forced marriages and radicalization of countless others since then, there is a need for the women in society to stand up against extremism.
WAVE is made up of a group of students of the American University of Nigeria who have seen the negative effects of violent extremism on women in society and are passionate about putting a stop to it by spreading the message of love and peaceful co-existence. We are part of a youth initiative to combat hateful and extremist narratives among youths and promote love for the religious Other.