The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has spoken of his excitement at being appointed to lead a peace commission in the northern Nigeria state of Kaduna. The state, where Dr Idowu-Fearon previously served as bishop, has been wracked by violence between rival groups for decades.
“My heart is in Kaduna,” he told ACNS. “This is an opportunity to continue – with government recognition – the work I was doing there. This is where the Lord first gave me the opportunity to be a bridge-builder; where I did my work in conflict prevention and promotion of peace and mutual respect.”
He insisted that he would be able to fulfil his new role alongside his responsibilities with the Anglican Communion. And he added that he had the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury and also his successor as bishop in Kaduna in his new position.
“I believe my role as Secretary General covers all of the countries within the Communion,” he said. “I will still be doing my job as an ambassador for the Communion. The work of reconciliation is part of my job, whether that is within the Communion, with our ecumenical partners or with people of different religions.”
The state Governor, Nasiru el-Rufai, told the guests gathered for the inauguration of the commission in Kaduna last month that it was a “momentous” event. He called on people to reject the legacy of violence which has engulfed the state for so long and embrace a culture of peace and tolerance. He praised the Secretary General for “profoundly demonstrating” his love for Kaduna and for his concern that religion should not be used as an excuse for violence.
Dr Idowu-Fearon plans to travel to Kaduna once every three months to see progress and liaise with the rest of the four-person Peace Commission. The other members will work full-time on the Commission: Executive Vice-Chair Priscilla Ankut; Professor Saleh Momale and Hajiya Khadija Hawaja Gambo.
They will review recommendations by previous bodies set up to defuse tensions in the state and also hold talks with a range of stakeholders. The aim will be to look at ideas which will bring an end to violence and create a climate of peace which will encourage development and inward investment.
The Secretary General explained that the conflicts within Kaduna were very complex: they were not just about tensions between Christian and Muslim communities; there were also rivalries between various people groups in different areas and there was animosity between some farmers and herdsmen.
“We will look at what lies behind the clashes,” he said. “We will also look at the various recommendations that have been put forward in the past.”
The idea of a Peace Commission was recommended by a council of 70 state elders – men and women – set up by a previous Governor in 2012. The Commission will carry out its work over five years.
Dr Idowu-Fearon is optimistic about the Commission’s work: “It is not expected to be permanent,” he explained. “It is hoped that by the time we are due to finish, there will be no need for a peace commission.”