Tony Blair, Justin Welby to work on reconciliation in Nigeria

Published 23 November 2012

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Archbishop of Canterbury-elect Bishop Justin Welby, and Prince Ghazi of Jordan have unveiled plans to work on reconciliation in Nigeria.

The northern regions of the country in particular have been dogged by inter-religious violence, which has seen churches and Christian communities attacked by Islamist militants.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation today unveiled a plan of action to build sustainable co-existence between Christians and Muslims.

The programme will involve faith leaders as well as young people, and will bring them together to work on responses to issues like malaria.

Young Christians and Muslims will get to learn from each other directly through the Foundation's Face to Faith high school programme.

Face to Faith is aimed at helping young people learn to respect, rather than fear difference.

It is hoped that the reconciliation work will ultimately see the conflict replaced with cooperation.

Mr Blair said: "Understanding and respecting different faiths is central to securing sustainable peace, particularly where those who seek to misuse religion for violent ends aim to destroy it."

Bishop Welby has had first hand experience of reconciliation work in Nigeria, where he led successful peace negotiations between warring factions.

He said: "Thirty-four years after first coming to Nigeria, and with more than seventy visits since, in all parts of this vibrant, passionate, talented and promising country, I am both challenged and profoundly excited by this initiative. In service to Nigeria, it offers a contribution to the hope of peace across the whole country.

"It is a service, there is no question of bringing some external solutions, and peace and development in this country are always made possible only by Nigerians.

"Thank you for allowing me to contribute to the future of a country I admire and love."

The plans have been welcomed by President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

He said: "This is an important moment for us as a country. I believe in progressive dialogue. Dialogue where we can set goals and timelines.

"To find great people coming from around the world to help us in this is incredible."

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