Nearly two months ago, armed members of Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, kidnapped nearly 300 girls in Chibok, a town in the northeast of Nigeria. Some girls were able to escape, but it’s believed that at least 200 girls are still being held captive.
Rising as a separatist movement, Boko Haram has waged a military insurgency in Nigeria to display disapproval of Western culture, and desire to overthrow the government and create an Islamist state. This recent kidnapping is part of the terror committed by Boko Haram since 2009. Just days after the international community became outraged about the kidnappings, a car bombing killed over 70 people. The group is said to be responsible for nearly 5,000 deaths, with the country’s Christian population being a major target.
While I’d been aware of the widespread turmoil in Nigeria, it was when reading submissions to Global Exchange’s What About Peace? contest from several Nigerian students that the deep feeling of insecurity really rang loud.
What About Peace?, an international contest encourages youth to express ideas about peace by creatively answering the question: ‘What About Peace?’ through written or visual art.
Story after story came in from entries from SCHOOL NAME that directly spoke about the ongoing conflict that has touched most of the lives of these students. But it was not the theme of violence that dominated the stories, but rather a sense of hope for a better tomorrow and a call for peace and brotherhood amongst the many religious and ethnic groups that make up Africa’s most populous country.
And it was a story by Ikeora Ebuka AGE??, who contributed an inspirational written piece encouraging us all to act everyday and begin by making peace at home that won him the Grand Prize Award of this year’s contest. Beginning his story through the perspective of a soldier, Ikeora searches for a way to promote peace and offers his perspective.
Ikeora wrote: ‘An important part of our growth and motivation as people lies in contributing to the greater good, being part of something greater than our selves. Little gestures can create or strengthen our sense of community and of shared humanity, lightening our burdens for just a moment and giving us something to smile about. And that’s no small matter.
…Through our intention and actions, we choose to bring positive experiences into our lives and make them for others. We can all do something.’
This indeed is true. The peace message created by Ikeora and other international array of entries in the contest generates a ray of hope that we are all united for peace in our communities. The messages may not bring an end to the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria but this definitely is a step towards creating a better world for the future.
While thousands around the world from Washington, DC to Laos join those in the streets of the Nigerian capital Abuja, calling on the government to intensify the search for missing schoolgirls, we become aware of our universal connection and the need to come together in times of conflict to bring hope and call for peace.