Choosing peace over revenge is costly.
But this choice turned Christopher from Nigeria into a peacebuilder.
He grew up in a peaceful community, with people from many different cultures and religions. But, when he was 20, conflict arose. Friends turned into enemies and the community became segregated. "During the attacks, they came with guns and knives," said Christopher. "A lot have been killed… my friends who I grew up with."
Life in central Nigeria has been tense and troubled since the turn of the century, with an estimated 14,000 people dying in communal violence.
The blood-letting is often characterized as clashes between Muslims and Christians, although there are underlying tribal and land right issues at play. When conflict like this breaks out, it's the most vulnerable members of communities who pay the highest price.
Christopher wasn't spared from the effects of the violence in his community. In the past, he had chosen to fight. "Whenever I saw a Muslim man I saw an enemy, and attacked," he said. But then he went to a series of peace-building seminars held by a Tearfund partner. The Scripture Union West Africa (SUWA) trains Christian and Muslim religious leaders in resolving conflict. Along with other young people from his area, Christopher was invited to join the seminars.
"I believe God wants us to come together as one." - Christopher
Not only did he learn techniques for conflict resolution and peacebuilding, Christopher also learned tailoring skills. He opened a shop called Man of Peace to spread the message of nonviolence while tailoring clothes. He teaches young people how to sew, and currently works with more than 200 students. Christopher said, "God says we must make peace. I believe God wants us to come together as one." Today, he's known as the"Peace Man" to those around him.
Why is peacebuilding so important to the work of justice? It allows people to get at the root of conflict - breaking cycles of trauma and violence. This is more needed than ever before. In 2019 alone, 11 million people were displaced from their homes due to wars, violence or persecution, bringing the total number of displaced people worldwide to almost 80 million.
Find out how you can stand in solidarity with people displaced by violence and conflict today.
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