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 Foundation fosters youth leadership development that promotes pluralism and rejects corruption. We build cross-cultural teams of young women and men with skills to emerge from dysfunctional families, and for some, drug-influenced lives on the streets, to become peer-leaders and agents of peace capable of helping themselves, of shaping a positive and sustainable society that rejects violence, and who insist on communicating excellence and unbridled compassion for all. We work with the youth to develop: 1) a sense of belonging to a common and interconnected humanity; 2) dignity for all people; 3) 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.