A group photo of people at the Kaduna interfaith centre

Participants of the training in International Center for Interfaith, Peace and Harmony in Kaduna, Nigeria.


Mallam Ibrahim Garba, the centre’s co-director for partnerships, said that Nigerians want and cherish peace. “The positive relationships that came about as a result of the many lives we have touched with our trainings give me hope,” said Garba.

Garba also reflected on the importance of understanding what “inter-faith” means as part of the centre’s name. “Some people erroneously see ‘inter-faith’ as a new religion,” he said. “Clearly that is not my understanding of inter-faith and for those that look at it that way, I would say, we have failed from start.”

Inter-faith, he believes, is the coming together of followers of different religious beliefs working together to ensure peaceful coexistence and respecting each other’s beliefs. “As is contained in both scriptures, the Bible and Quran—stressing more on what unites us rather that what causes division between us.”

At the centre, each person is allowed to practice their respective beliefs, Garba added. “Seeing each other, first as human rather than a Christian or a Muslim— it is on this predicate that we operate.”

World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Rev. Dr Ioan Sauca congratulated the centre on its fifth anniversary, recalling in 2012, when the WCC and the Royal Jordanian Aal Al-Bayt Institute of Islamic Thought co-led a Christian-Muslim delegation to Nigeria to seek a focus for Christian-Muslim cooperation for justice and peace in the midst of a massive surge in inter-communal violence. 

“Developing from an original plan for interreligious monitoring, the scope of the centre’s work has widened to include growing the next generation’s movement toward reconciliation and peace in the local context,” said Sauca. “These peace ambassadors are a source of hope and inspiration in world desperately in need of honest communication.”

The centre has also been convening and hosting groups of Muslim and Christian religious leaders, including the WCC’s Reference Group of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in 2017. As trust and communication grows, religious leaders have been able to then jointly address issues such as credible elections and humanitarian work among displaced persons. 

“In many ways, the centre’s creative and careful work in peace-building has become a model for the world,” said Sauca. 

‘The centre changed my life’

After attending a program on peace-building between Christian and Muslim youths, Esther Nuhu Samuel described a positive shift in self-identity. 

“It boosted my capacity on peace-building and peaceful coexistence among Christians and Muslims, thereby making me a peace ambassador and peace vanguard in my community and society at large,” said Nuhu, a resident of Kahuna. 

Nearly five years ago, Nigerian Christians and Muslims gathered on 19 August to open the centre in Kaduna, where more than 20,000 people have died in various conflicts over the last three decades. Amid a growing number of interfaith initiatives in Nigeria, the new centre has a unique goal: to systematically document interfaith relations to inform national and international policy-making.

Mohammed Yusuf Ahmed first became involved with the centre through social media, then visited in person. 

“The centre not only changed my life but even changed my perception about multi-religious coexistence, and the Muslim-Christian relationship, because I'm from a community where Muslims and Christians have lived together for decades but divided because of multiple crises,” said Ahmed. “Because of workshops and training that I attended in the centre, I try my best to intervene in the crises, and through dialogue we are trying to reduce the tension between Muslims and Christians. Now we are interacting with each other without any fear.”

Key local Nigerian organizations, the Christian Council of Nigeria and Jama’atu Nasril Islam, led the effort to open the centre, which was preceded in 2014 by a consultative forum held in Abuja that drew about 40 Muslim and Christian leaders.

Local leaders were backed by international partners, including the WCC and the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. Ongoing interreligious work from both organizations has yielded real-life results for people like Maryam Baba Mohammed, a nurse and founder of the Women in Leadership Initiative, who participated the centre's workshops and training.

“As a mentor and counselor, it has helped me in bridging a lot of gaps when training people of different faiths,” said Mohammed. “I preach love, tolerance and unity. As a founder of a women's organization, we've also held programs on women’s participation in peace and conflict resolution.” 

The WCC has continued to work with the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought to seek partners to keep growing the neutral information-collection and archive centre, both virtually and on the ground in Nigeria. On a typical day at the centre, people share stories that allow their voices to be heard, and assist with the collecting of accurate data about incidents of violence. 

Over the past five years, the centre has helped create an accurate, impartial and indelible record of injustices, violence and atrocities which is serving not only as a deterrent but also as an honest starting point for future solutions.