When conflict breaks out, people in poverty invariably pay the highest price as countless civilians in Syria, Afghanistan, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo will tell you. Fear drives many to take the only option available – fleeing their homes and livelihoods.

Tearfund tackles people’s immediate needs by providing shelter, food and basic essentials to help them survive, but often we also stay for the long haul, helping with reconstruction and giving people the skills they need to restart their lives.

In places such as Nigeria, where thousands died in clashes between Christians and Muslims, we also help build the peace.

When conflict breaks out, people in poverty invariably pay the highest price.

NIGERIA: Blessed peacemakers

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 characterised as clashes between Muslims and Christians, although there are underlying tribal and land right issues at play. Invariably those who suffer the most are women and children.

In the central city of Jos, we’re supporting our partner, Scripture Union West Africa (SUWA), to train Christian and Muslim religious leaders in resolving conflict.

Christian and Muslim young people are often drawn into violence, so they’re being targeted by the training, with some people selected to be peace ambassadors.

Nigerian partners shake hands with Peace Man

The beautiful games

Sport is also used to bridge divides, with interfaith football matches and other games fostering peace in trouble spots. In between games, short speeches on peace are given and interfaith discussions take place.

Work between SUWA and Jama’atu Nasril Islam of Jos, the umbrella body for Muslims in Nigeria, has resulted in the signing of a peace agreement in some of Jos’s most turbulent communities. And there are other indicators that attitudes are changing.

Partner staff found that just a few days into training, participants started to recognise that revenge or other forms of violence only perpetuates more violence.

An inspiring example of this in practice was when a church was bombed in 2012, and young people from the surrounding area who had been through peace-building sessions were able to persuade those who had not to refrain from revenge attacks.

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