The Wukari Peace Process, a striving toward calm and the cessation of violence between Muslim and Christian groups in the town of Wukari, Taraba state, Nigeria, held its first formal consultation in January 2017. The four-day meeting of local civic and religious leaders from both communities came after two years of organizing and preparing by Nigeria’s Reformed Churches Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation Committee (PJRC) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action (OSJ).
Made possible by the work of the PJRC and OSJ and also supported by World Missions, World Renew, and a special donation from a CRC constituent, the recent consultation allowed for the formation of a six-member follow-up committee (three Christians and three Muslims) chaired by Joseph Zhema. Zhema is one of the key organizers of the consultation and is also a cousin of the local Traditionalist (Jukun) leader.
A month after its formation, the Inter Religious Implementation Committee has begun its work and appears to be making a difference. Bulus Ali, organizer with the PJRC, said: “Joseph Zhema shares a story that warms my heart: A Muslim [man] had come back to repair his destroyed property. Some youth went to pull it down. Members of the Inter Religious Committee swam into action to control things. Keep them in your prayers.”
The Wukari Peace Process is the beginning of an answer to historic conflict. In a report on the recent consultation, Zhema, Ali, Dr. Hizkias Assefa (the process facilitator), and Peter Vander Meulen of OSJ, wrote: “There were at least eight episodes of armed confrontation between Christian and Muslim groups in Wukari between 2013 and 2015.”
“There are no reliable official counts, but some unauthoritative estimates indicate that about 2,600 people were killed, a similar number injured, and about 8,500 houses burned or destroyed,” the report said.
The Wukari Peace Process is modeled on an earlier peace building in Takum, another Local Government Area further south in Taraba State, in which Assefa also served as facilitator. Though many of the 50 participants in the Wukari Peace Process had no experience with the earlier process, the organizers wrote in their report: “The consultation process enjoyed a high degree of trust from all the participants, but the trust from the Muslim participants was particularly remarkable since none of those participants took part in our previous peacebuilding efforts in Takum and Jalingo in the early 2000s and were not very familiar with the facilitator and organizers.”