For Nigerian Nwankpa Kenneth Chinedu, attending a course on peacebuilding in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Geneva opened his eyes and helped eliminate stereotypes and myths he had built in his mind about Muslims.
Chinedu worships with the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria in the southeastern Imo state and is president of youth in the church where he takes care of ecumenical matters.
He was one of a group of young people attending a three-week residential course this summer for a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies from the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute at Bossey near Geneva.
The 32-year-old grew up in nearby Abia state which is also in the southeastern part of Nigeria where the population is mainly Christian, while Muslims who account for nearly 50 percent of the country’s population, are concentrated in the north.
“Before now I had always believed I can’t communicate well with Muslims. I would never have thought of stepping into a mosque to see how Muslims worship,” said Chinedu.
But he did just that in Geneva and experienced prayer with the other Christian, Jewish and Muslim students as part of the course.
“We went to a mosque, and synagogue before going to a Lutheran church,” on the Muslim day of prayer, on Shabbat and on the Sabbath.
Before the course Chinedu had believed that Muslims were responsible for the bombings of churches and markets in Nigeria which has faced sectarian conflict.
“What I got to understand is that the ones practising the conflict are the ignorant ones who don’t know what Islam is about…I now know that what I thought is not the case.
“I learned that the three major religions are really serving the same God, so I have a different ideology to what I had before I came here. My knowledge has been broadened,” said Chinedu.
Chinedu studied business administration and management and now wants to work towards entering the church ministry where he wants to take interreligious dialogue to the youth of Nigeria who he says don’t have enough of it to break down their stereotypes.
"Young people gather for peacebuilding in Judaism, Christianity and Islam" - WCC news release from 28 June 2017