Nigeria is facing multiple and complex security challenges including Islamist violence in the North East, worsening violent criminality and insecurity in the North West and ethno-religious violence, and farmer-herder conflict across large parts of central Nigeria. In a country with a highly religiously observant population that is roughly divided between the two main established religions of Islam and Christianity, the role of religion and its primacy over ethno-political and other factors in these violent conflicts is hotly debated and contested. It is a debate in which opposing views are strongly and sincerely held, which in itself can complicate inter-faith relations.
The Bishop of Truro’s 2019 independent review into the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s work to support persecuted Christians examined the scale and nature of Christian persecution globally. The independent review looked at a broad range of countries including Nigeria, where it drew particular attention to intercommunal violence in the Middle Belt and Northern Nigeria. The independent Review acknowledged that different factors contributed to the violence, including that of climate change. The conference will provide an opportunity to consider solutions to the ongoing issue of social cohesion in Nigeria, including the role that community and religious leaders and faith organisations can play. The Bishop of Truro’s independent review also recommended the British Government increase its engagement with faith-based communities and develop strategies to foster social cohesion, and peacebuilding, promoting inclusive high-quality education for all, and addressing social-economic issues.
This conference offers the opportunity to bring together interested parties from Nigeria and the UK, to discuss the challenges of inter-communal violence in Nigeria and examine how collectively government, civil society, faith-based and community organisations and others can work together to build solutions, and what role the UK government can play in supporting this.
The conference is part of HMG’s response to the Bishop of Truro’s report – giving greater priority and emphasis to our work to tackle the root causes of violence and to promote cohesion between different communities, as well as increasing our engagement with relevant faith leaders and organisations from the UK and Nigeria.
This conference has four specific aims:
- To explore the dynamics of conflict in Nigeria including the role of religion as a precipitant and multiplier of violent insecurity. To consider the longer-term underlying resource competition and other drivers of insecurity.
- To demonstrate and explore opportunities to strengthen inter-faith initiatives to tackle exacerbating tensions and promote respect and reconciliation between groups. To consider the role of faith leaders as convenors and mediators as part of wider reconciliation efforts.
- To consider alternative dispute settlement mechanisms to address impunity for those responsible and demands for justice is met for all, including members of religious groups.
- To reflect on how best the UK can support faith and community leaders as they work on building solutions.