Archives for October 2011


It feels like a dream, because it is.  The beginning of a new dream for all those in attendance.  Having gone through “The Principles of Reconciliation” everyone finished the conference with additional new skills and commitments of how to go forward in their own lives, personally and professional, to build peace.  I don’t think I ever actually used the word ’empowered’ during the conference, but certainly that is the word that many were using to describe to me how they felt when it concluded today.  Even though our time together has ended, it really has just begun.

I am exhausted, joyous, and in a state of awe at what we accomplished together.  The Ambassador Dr. Mussie Hailu, as regional coordinator for the United Religions Initiative, started drafting an appeal and proclamations from those in attendance calling government, religious leaders, women, youth and media is promoting the cause of peace in Northern Nigeria.  Simultaneously a group of the participants-journalists, poets, musicians, religious leaders, NGO founders,  from all walks of life that were present, collaborated in compiling a draft of ideas that were then integrated into the final draft.  All conference attendees approved the final appeal.

There again are more stories to tell than is possible at this moment, but my heart is telling me that history has been made and that we will remember this time with great fondness and genuine pride.  I am sure the ripples will go out through education in numerous forms, whether through community churches and mosques, NGOs or governmental organizations and with educators themselves who committed to implement peace education into curriculum.  The seeds of hope have been created, it remains to be seen what garden grows from this momentous gathering.

Hearts Touching Hearts

The transformation is happening.  People don’t want to stop their conversations. Things are definitely flowing. How do we measure the way that hearts have been transformed?  How do we measure how people have been inspired?  How we do measure the level of hope?  All I know is the difference is palpable and present at the conference!  The participants themselves are speaking about it.

[I’m sorry for you folks back home that the internet here has been so weak that I have been unable to post pictures.  I will keep trying, however, worst case I will post some photos upon our return.]

Many people came up to me throughout the day.  One shared that before attending last years conference, he had been betrayed and had lost hope.  He said that last year’s conference had been a turning point and that he had initiated several projects.  Another came to say that this was her first conference and that she can hardly wait to implement everything she has learned.  She works at an NGO work doing youth leadership development in Abuja.  Another gentleman also said this was his first time and that he has benefited tremendously.  The Ambassador from Ethiopia mentioned how much he appreciated learning about ‘The Demons of the Imagination’ (i.e. “I can’t make a difference”, “The circumstances are too powerful”, “I don’t have the resources-time or money,) since he knew these kind of thoughts stopped so many people.

Sani Suleiman and Emmanuel Ivorgba are wonderful partners in facilitating this conference.  Both are experienced peacebuilders.  Sani is widely known from a radio program in Jos.  He is humorous, capable, able to move with the group in a widely dynamic and engaging manner.  He brings a wealth of information from his years of experience.  Emmanuel is driven, passionate, a man of action and a man of his word.  Both bring overlapping and unique gifts to the conference.

Anyway there is so much to tell, but I have just been informed they are ready to serve dinner and are wiating for me.  So I’ll try to write more later.

In solidarity with peacebuilders around the world,


Pre Conference Excitement

Things are starting to speed up!   Conference attendees and presenters from out of town started showing up tonight at the CRUDAN Guesthouse where we’ll all be staying for the duration of the conference.

It seems that most of the Nigerian attendees are well known to each other as many have been doing peace work for years.

The special guest of Thursday’s presenters, Amb. Dr. Mussie Hailu, Regional coordinator, United REligions Initiative (URI), and Representative at the Africa Union and UNECA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia arrived in time to sit with us at dinner.  What a joy to meet him and have the opportunity to get to know him.  Towards the beginning of our conversation he asked me if I knew of the book, The Moral Imagination by John Paul Lederach.  I responded by exclaiming that it is my favorite book!  He smiled and proceeded to tell me that it is his favorite book as well, and he valued the book so much that he invited John Paul to Ethiopia to lead trainings.  He mentioned how wonderful it has been to work closely with John Paul the last two years.  What a great start.  I have found a friend for life.   After dinner I did a private showing of Pray the Devil Back To Hell.  He mentioned to me afterwards that he appreciated I had brought the film, for it exemplified the need not just to attend conferences and ‘talk’ about peace building, but to step into action.  We are off to a good start.

Earlier in the day we’d had the opportunity to talk with Mr Godwin Okoko, the country representative of APURIMAC Nigeria who has his office in Jos.  He is doing fantastic peace work locally.  His organization lined up the program we attended yesterday with students from throughout Jos.  Mr. Okoko also will be presenting tomorrow and joined us at our dinner table.  It was a joyous time for all of us.   What a blessing and gift to be in the company of these distinguished peace builders.

A Day of Many Visits – Tuesday Oct 25, 2011

WOW!  What a day!

The early part of the morning was spent visiting with Mercy from ‘Project Happiness’.  What a surprise to see her walk into the NEEDCSI office, not having seen her since 2007.  She just graduated in economics from Univ of Jos and now has to wait a year, before then serving another year with the NYSC (National Youth Service Corps.)  She then looks forward to finding a job.

After our visit with Mercy I met with Sani Sulaiman and Emmanuel Ivorgba in preparation for facilitating the second and third days of the conference regarding the 7 Principles of Reconciliation.

Then we headed off to a program sponsored by Apurimac Onlus for about 200 local students.  There were a select few from each of the surrounding schools.  We had the privilege to listen to students asking questions about how to promote peace.  They wanted concrete answers as to how they could contribute.  Their observations of the local situation were astute.  They were amazingly honest and perceptive.  I was able to close the event by singing with the students the song “RISE UP”.

Lastly we visited CMIA (Creative Minds Int’l Academy) and had the chance to visit with faculty and students.

There are always new connections being made, and old connections to renew.  Amidst the set backs, electricity turning on and off twenty times a day, lack of reliable internet, problems with the lab at CMIA (which John is currently working on,) it always amounts to the people and wonderful connections that make our time here incredible.

Apurimac Onlus Vocational Training Center

John spent the morning installing the new eGranary (a digital library) at a vocational training center. The photograph shows members of the staff at Apurimac Onlus Vocational center celebrating the installation of the eGranary. The center provides a variety of programs including computer skills. The computer training graduates 100 students every 6 months and includes male and female students from a broad range of ages and religious backgrounds. The computer program has a waiting list of several hundred students and will now have capacity for 32 additional students per semester as well a providing access to all students to a much broader educational experience.

Faculty were already researching agricultural information on the eGranary for a project in a remote villageThis is exactly the kind of situation for which the eGranary was designed- to enable access to resources otherwise unavailable.

The eGranary was designed by WiderNet founder, Cliff Missen, who worked with faculty at the University of Jos.  It is comprised of 20 million documents including 30,000 books and over 30,000 webpages with educational and encyclopedic materials.  It changes an educational environment with no textbooks and computers with no internet access, into an environment of exploration and research opportunities.