Grant to Help UMass Boston Team Bridge Divides in Global Hot Spots
February 13, 2013
The Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development has been awarded a five-year grant to work with the Interfaith Mediation Centre (IMC), a religious grassroots organization that promotes peace between political, social, and religious groups in Nigeria.
The project, which includes a high-tech effort to warn those living in "hot spots" of global conflict, involves graduate students and partners at UMass Boston, and members of the community.
"Nigeria right now is under tremendous pressure. It has a major Islamist insurgency that's surfaced in the last two years, which is aggravating Muslim-Christian tensions,” says Darren Kew, associate professor of conflict resolution, human security, and global governance and the executive director of the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development.
“Our goal is to try to increase the networks of interreligious actors who know each other, understand each other, have some trust, and can deal with conflicts as they arise." Kew, leading a team of CPDD members and UMass Boston graduate students, will be assisting Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, former enemies in Nigeria who have become IMC colleagues.
The UMass Boston team will help the IMC with conflict resolution strategies and trainings, provide developmental support as the organization shifts away from being strictly a volunteer organization, and the expansion of IMC’s early warning system. Kew and Madhawa Palihapitiya, associate director of the UMass Boston-based Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration, will be going to Kaduna, Nigeria this summer to develop this system, which will warn users of where violence is happening.
"The idea is that any member of the network in Nigeria can use their smartphone, send text messages, or use an online site to post a report of a violent clash breaking out, and then IMC and its partners will assess it. Oftentimes there are rumors that are not correct but people act on the rumor, and it becomes reality anyway. As Pastor James says, you can kill a person for a rumor," Kew said. UMass Boston honored Wuye and Ashafa for their accomplishments by awarding them honorary doctorates in 2012.
CPDD is working with another partner organization, the Watertown-based Public Conservations Project (PCP), to run a series of dialogue trainings for IMC. This summer, as long as safety can be ensured, UMass Boston graduate students will be going to Nigeria to collect data, evaluate, and offer support for IMC's efforts.
"It's particularly exciting to have students engaged with this. The goal of the center is to provide more opportunities for students to gain field experience across a variety of concerns," Kew said.
Although the center, which merged with the Center for Democracy and Development two years ago, has worked on peace and democracy building in West Africa, China, the Middle East, and Latin America, it also has worked with community partners to bridge divides locally. The center is currently working to:
• improve communication between Boston law enforcement and the region’s Muslim and Sikh communities
• form an intra-Somali dialogue in Boston
• along with UMass Boston's William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture, set up a dialogue process with the Boston Busing/Desegregation Project (BBDP) aimed at trying to heal some of the scars left from that tumultuous era in Boston.
"In many ways, this is very similar to the healing processes that we look at around the world. It's not like Boston is a postwar circumstance, but the busing era had some very, very deep wounds that have not healed fully. The dialogue process not only includes the old Bostonians who lived through busing, but the new Bostonians who are here and who feel the impacts of it," Kew said.
Posted by John M. | Wednesday, February 13 2013 at 9:40 pm
Congratulations on the grant, and more importantly, thanks for undertaking this much needed work to strengthen Nigeria’s hopes for peaceful and constructive resolution of its complex issues. I am familiar with CPDD, PCP, and IMC and know that together you will ensure voices are heard and lives are saved. Kudos to USAID for funding this innovative project.
Posted by Chris Brodie | Thursday, February 28 2013 at 11:53 am
What an outstanding opportunity for CPDD to continue and expand its work in Nigeria! Congratulations to Darren and his team for all the collaborative approaches, and especially for getting USAID’s financial support and leverage. Looking forward to an update on this!