“Nigeria’s youth,” was the reply of Ahmed Hassan when asked where he saw hope in Nigeria. The context of this question is one of bomb blasts, daily Boko Haram killings, two presidential candidates – a Muslim and a Christian – vying for control of the pie in the upcoming federal elections, religious tension, poverty and unemployment.
13 years ago Hassan’s family suffered the loss of a son and much property during the 2001 uprising that happened 5 days after 9/11. The world’s attention was focused elsewhere, but the attention of Hassan’s eldest daughter, Amina, was focused on what she saw as the Christian plan for the destruction of Muslims in Nigeria. She joined a group that was bent on revenge.
Hassan watched these developments and though educated in Arabic and the Qu’ran had an interest in his children taking what they could from western ideas and education. He wisely encouraged Amina to learn about the other side and join a peace conversation instigated by MCC. As resistant to the idea as Amina was, she attended the 3-day conversation and learned that these Christians were not what she thought them to be. Amina was transformed into one of the strongest peace advocates Jos has ever seen.
I was fascinated by Amina’s story of her father who had this kind of influence on his 16 children and asked her if I could meet him. Today was the day when Hassan welcomed me to his house. After 90 minutes of introductions and story-telling, I noted to Hassan that I felt a sense of shalom just being in his presence.
Despite the hopelessness of broken, corrupt governing systems leading to rampant and increasing violence in the country, Hassan feels that investing in youth, as he did with Amina, is the way towards life in a future for Nigeria.
I don’t completely share his hope, but I’m working on it!