By Ononye VC
The Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP) non-governmental organization has inducted 60 peace-ambassadors to build and strengthen the processes of social change in Nigeria and Africa.
“We can only resolve conflict through meaningful dialogue” Cardinal John Onaiyekan, retired Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, told participants at a graduation ceremony of the peace-ambassadors in Abuja, the nation’s capital, recently.”
Our faith in God also inspires and empowers us to launch into action to do all we can for the good of our human environment, working with all men and women of goodwill, especially women and men of all faiths,” he said.”
We are therefore grateful to all who have joined us as partners in this noble task – and all who have been supporting and facilitating this work, both from abroad and at home” said the cardinal, one of Nigeria’s most respected faith leaders and a passionate advocate for religious tolerance and inclusiveness, who in 2010 established COFP.
Cardinal Onaiyekan explained that the participants “have been empowered, strengthened and positioned to engage in greater meaningful interfaith and peacebuilding actions across the African Continent.”
In her address, the Executive Director of COFP, Sister Agatha Chikelue, emphasized that, “Building peace in an environment where ethnic strife, bad governance, fanaticism, terrorism and insecurity predominate is both a personal commitment, with organizational efforts and key responsibility of government.”
She said that the COFP Fellowship Programme “took a new dimension in 2021 by expanding its scope and horizon to other African countries which has made it a pan-African program with global solidarity.”
According to her, “the participants of the one year program successfully emerged from the required 159 credit hours of study at the foundation and have helped with their community peace projects in their various states and countries.”
Sister Chikelue said that apart from the Nigerians who were in the majority, about ten were from other African countries — Ghana, Liberia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo DRC, Cameroon, Kenya, Zambia, Somalia, Morocco and South Africa.
They were from adherents of both Christian and Islamic faith groups.Speaking on behalf of the participants, Clementine Nishimwe, a Rwandan and Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, said that the program has made them understand the importance of living in a peaceful environment and commit to translating “dialogue into practical action”.
For Muhammad Musa, Chief Imam of Concordia College, Adamawa State Council, the COFP Fellowship Programme “is an unforgettable experience because of the skills and knowledge I acquired which would help me to become a better leader.”
Reacting further on the impact of the program, Abdulfata Emetuma who is the Grand Imam of Oguta in Imo State, Nigeria, noted that, “The moment we throw away that sense of universality, we are in trouble.”
The graduating participants received two certificates from Nile and Veritas universities respectively on Inter-Religious Dialogue, Conflict Transformation and Dialogue which qualifies them to bring peace to the grassroots as community leaders.
COFP recognizes that most conflicts in Africa are symptoms of deeper structural problems arising from all manners of exclusion — religious, ethnic, political, economic, gendered — that can only be adequately resolved through governance structures that are both ethical and just.”
COFP therefore strives to address these challenges by, among other things, promoting ethical leadership, offering a space for faith leaders, citizens and political leaders at all levels to engage in discussions for peace and development,” according to its website.
The foundation is driven by the principle of common good in line with the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church, the Nostra Aetate Declaration of the Second Vatican Council on Interreligious Dialogue and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). –