Nigeria, a nation of over 170 million people, is the most populous nation in Africa, approximately half Muslim, half Christian, with a minority practicing earlier traditions. Nigeria is currently experiencing very profound and complex challenges, including the rise of violent extremism and radicalization, against a backdrop of identity-based conflicts, cultural and religious tensions. Across the regions, Nigerians identify with historic roots in over 300 tribal ethnicities; each maintaining pride in its culture and distinct language. Nigeria’s wealth is in her abundant natural resources, extraordinary human resilience and hospitality, and rich diversity of traditions. Paradoxically her greatest challenges are rooted largely in human disconnection. The resultant ignorance and fear of the “other” perpetuates her citizen’s inability to embrace one another, cooperate, and share resources and wealth. Rising youth unemployment, poverty, competition, and disunity fuels violent – sometimes – brutal acts against one another that cry out for a new culture of peace that promotes nonviolent human engagement across the land. Everyone wants to be heard; few have the will or skills to listen and learn. Desperately needed are skilled artisans of communication and informed innovators.
New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation is a Nigeria-based registered national nonprofit building cross-cultural teams of young women and men, with skills to emerge from dysfunctional families and a drug-influenced life on the streets, to become peer-leaders and agents of peace capable of helping themselves and influencing their communities for good. Beginning at the heart, we help young people commit themselves to education and concrete goals, while helping them discover and develop their unique talents, and potentiality. Both self-disciplined and imaginative, these youth are becoming productive citizens and leaders capable of teamwork and shaping a positive, sustainable society that rejects violence and insists on communication excellence and unbridled compassion for all. The youth develop values that include: (1) A sense of belonging to a common and interconnected humanity, (2) Respect and a sense of dignity for all people, (3) A dedication to preserving the natural environment and (4) A strong social service ethic.
Our strongest global impact is from our 2012 how-to film, “DIALOGUE IN NIGERIA: Muslims and Christians Creating Their Future”– our International co-production with the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group, California, USA. In the first 2012 year over 3,000 DVDs were requested from every continent by citizens in 570 cities of 70 nations, 20 in Africa. This documentary gives voices and faces to 200 courageous Muslims and Christians – diverse young women and men – who we united successfully here in Jos, central Nigeria. Refusing to be enemies, they were together during days and evenings of our 2010 International Conference on Youth and Interfaith Communication. They were tense yet excited to finally cross lines of religion, economics, tribe, and gender to transcend the status quo and discover empathy for each other’s personal life experiences. Together they realized that “an enemy is one whose story we have not heard,” while listening-to-learn and thus dignifying themselves and the “others.” Face to face and in small circles, they began with ice-breakers and continued in depth to discover one another’s equal humanity – fear, grief, needs, hopes, and concrete plans for a shared future. These determined young Nigerians illustrated how others worldwide can successfully connect and communicate to create authentic community.
At New Era Educational and Charitable Support Foundation, we believe that in the end, when we evaluate our lives, it is not the money in our bank accounts, the mansions we have built for ourselves or the degrees beside our names or our illustrious careers that will be most memorable, but the love, compassion and support that we share with others. In the next five years and beyond, our general goal will be to continue to provide the resources to inspire and empower people to live more compassionately, love more authentically and to create greater happiness within themselves and the world by constantly engaging with people to foster awareness of the power of compassionate love, forgiveness and peace. This will involve exploring and implementing practical programs that will enhance unity and self-conscious expression. We will continue to pursue a development approach that focuses on individual transformation for our personal and collective growth. We believe that as individuals engage in the process of self-development and become empowered in their own lives, they are naturally inspired to take actions to make meaningful and significant contributions to the advancement of their communities.