The Words of the Rigney Family
Abuja, Nigeria -- A seminar following up on the recent visit to Nigeria by UPF Founders Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon sparked discussions about ways Nigerian Ambassadors for Peace can work together to address challenges facing their nation. About 100 people attended the July 31 to August 2 discussions in Abuja.
Nigeria has arrived at a critical junction in its own history. On the one hand, the election of President Goodluck Jonathan represents a movement for reform and a major step up to a higher standard of governance. But on the other hand, there are old-school corrupt former politicians and retired military leaders who want to return to power who want to sabotage the president's agenda. And there are radical elements of both Islamists and Christians who are ready to launch their own holy wars against the government and each other which could cripple the country's hope for rapid change and development. The visit of UPF Founders as part of their 2011 Peace Tour, bringing leaders from throughout the world to participate in the July 15-18 International Leadership Conference focusing on peace and development, gave a major boost to the pro-reform camp by showing Nigerians how much the world can respect them if they step up to their responsibilities both at home and in the world community.
At the same time, Nigeria's Ambassadors for Peace were awakened to the important role they can play in changing their country and the world. Nigeria has hundreds of Ambassadors for Peace in all levels of society thanks to the activities of the chapters in many states. The international events launched UPF's Ambassadors for Peace network into a higher gear – giving them a heightened sense of mission and urgency. Nevertheless, these leaders need to cultivate a common vision and adopt guiding principles that will enable them to work together and demonstrate the value of Father Moon's vision and thought for Nigeria.
Both Ambassadors for Peace and UPF district and city leaders responded to invitation to the seminar led by representatives of the UPF Founders with impressive speed. For example, two district leaders had just arrived in the city of Jos to conduct a youth workshop but immediately boarded a bus for the five-hour return trip to Abuja. The UPF Secretary General started calling Ambassadors for Peace as soon as he received news of the seminar. Several of them live more than a thousand miles away, but they dropped what they were doing and boarded planes to fly to Abuja. Thirty city and state UPF leaders and a number of volunteers who had returned home ten days earlier boarded buses to make their way back to Abuja. They had been away from home for more than a month and had invested their resources into preparing for the Peace Tour and International Leadership Conference, but they also returned to Abuja.
The Ambassadors for Peace were greatly inspired by workshop. Senator Ibrahim Mantu had just started the Ramadan fast but he insisted on meeting the international delegation at the airport and spent every possible minute with them, sitting at the lunch table with them even though he would not be eating or drinking anything during daylight hours. Brigadier General Stephen Ikya called the event "a wonderful occasion" and thanked God for "Father Moon and Mother Moon." He said his wish is "that Father and Mother continue to pray for Nigeria as we work together for peace and that God will continue to bless the two of them." Nigerian Police Chaplain Daniel E. Benjamin said he wanted to become "a fully participating Ambassador for Peace" and suggested that UPF's national campaign "should be more intense." The representative of the Director of the Nigerian Youth Service Corps called the seminar most thought provoking and said "we need more workshops like this!"
There are several areas of the country where there is serious civil unrest brought on by political, ethnic, and religious conflict. UPF Ambassadors for Peace from those areas who took part in the workshop have started discussing ways that UPF can take steps to help settle the disputes and conflict in each of these areas. Secretary General of UPF-Nigeria Olaleye Alao gave an overview of the vision and mission of Ambassadors for Peace and reported on projects of UPF-Nigeria. Dr. Chang Shik Yang's report about the Middle East Peace Initiative's work for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs inspired Nigerian Muslim and Christian Ambassadors for Peace to start talking about how they can end inter-religious conflicts in various areas of the country. Bishop Ki Hoon Kim's reports about the American Clergy Leadership Conference convinced the bishops present that Nigeria also needs an equivalent organization but that Nigeria's organization should also include Islamic leaders. The Ambassadors for Peace from Akwa Ibom State began talks on how a local UPF Peace Council might help bring a settlement of the political differences in that state which have been provoking serious violence and destruction.
In addition, the UPF city and state leaders are working on ways to streamline communications and have volunteers mobilized to expand the national network. These steps were sorely needed but might not have been realized if the workshop had not been held in such a timely manner as to keep up the momentum of the Founders' visit.
Following up on the workshop, more education programs will be held in each state and on the national level to raise up the local Ambassadors for Peace. Task forces are being set up to deal with specific issues and interact with local and state government officials involved with these issues. Other educational are planned by city and state leaders with the support of local volunteers.