‘As I looked at the three young boys – their shoulders slouched with a heaviness and their eyes filled with pain – I could only admire their courage in choosing a journey of peace over raging conflict,’ reflects Tearfund’s Mariam Tadros following a recent visit to Nigeria.
Mariam helps co-ordinate Tearfund’s peacebuilding initiatives in a range of countries and met with a group of 20 young men and women in Angwan Rukuba in Jos. This town was at the heart of the crises of 2008 – 12 that tore Christian and Muslim communities apart. These young people have grown up in the midst of unimaginable bloodshed.
With limited access to education and job opportunities and high levels of drug abuse locally, young people are particularly susceptible to being drawn into ongoing violence. The three boys Mariam met, aged around 14, had been caught up in this cycle, but are now beginning the journey towards healing and community through this group.
Tearfund’s partner, Scripture Union West Africa, has built a relationship with a Muslim organisation called Jama’atu Nasril Islam. Together they run a project called Peace 2gether uniting young people from different backgrounds. By helping them to overcome the challenges of drug addiction, loss of hope and the pain of conflict, they help young people build a better future.
‘As these young people engage with a process of healing, they find meaning and purpose that gives them an energy – a vision of what could be that gives hope even as they live in the midst of the brokenness in their communities,’ says Mariam.
Out of this work, young people – vibrantly engaged with the idea of building peace – are forming committees and reaching out to others. Using sports, music and art, they take every opportunity to talk about peace, as well as warning against drug use.
Youth bring hope
An article in the Guardian following bombings in Jos in 2014 observed: ‘Youths from both faiths who might have been expected to turn on each other have instead joined forces. Gestures of goodwill, repeated elsewhere in a metropolis where invisible boundaries still determine what streets a Muslim or Christian can safely cross after nightfall, may have saved this city on a cliff-edge from falling off, at least for now.’
This is the power of young people committed to building peace. This is the hope that is instilled through initiatives like Peace 2gether.
‘Every time I’ve been here and spent time with our partners and sat with these young people, you can’t help but allow yourself to feel hope in spite of ongoing conflict,’ says Mariam. ‘To hear their stories of how encountering one another had turned enemies into friends, and how choosing peace meant that they now defended each other instead of defending against one another, gave me a sense of light breaking through darkness.’
Saturday 12 August is International Youth Day. This year’s theme recognises the important role young people have to play in building peace. Please join us in praying.
PRAY WITH US
Father God, we bring before you the young people of the world and particularly those growing up in areas of conflict. We pray for your protection over them in places of great insecurity. We ask that they would find faith and hope in you in the midst of fear and darkness.
We thank you for young people all over the world who are standing up and being counted as peacemakers in their nations. We thank you for the power of forgiveness and the restoration of relationships that is made possible through the work of your Son on the cross.
We pray for peace initiatives in conflict zones around the world and ask for your wisdom and grace for young people seeking to build a better future for themselves and their communities. As they sow in peace may they reap a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18).
We pray because we're desperate for God - to walk with him... in step with his will for the world.
Join our global poverty prayer movement. Go here for more information