Sometime in 2013, I got an invitation from a friend of mine to attend a break of fast dinner (Ramadan Iftar) organized by a Turkish NGO, UFUK Dialogue. I protested that I was the wrong person for such an event because I am a Christian. But my friend insisted stating that though a Muslim event, the idea is not only to break the fast but to provide a platform for close interaction between adherents of both faiths with the aim of achieving love and tolerance. He said I would be glad I did attend the event. I participated in the event, and a curious part of me was ignited. Could this be true?
The ambiance of the gathering was electrifying. The audience composition was interesting. So Interesting that you find on a table people dressed with turbans and cassocks interacting while dining. All through the event, the message being preached was peace, love, and tolerance. So strong was the message that you would wonder if you were in Nigeria because of the intolerance level amongst us. Nigeria is now clearly divided along religious and ethnic lines which are unprecedented in our history. And the attendant result has been series of ethnic and religious clashes in the country. I was pretty impressed that I tasked myself to researching into the activities of UFUK Dialogue Initiative, the organizers of the event. And the result was mind-boggling.
UFUK is an international NGO in Nigeria that has been preaching the message of peaceful co-existence amongst Nigerians through the instrument of dialogue, love, and tolerance. It was founded in 2011 with a mission to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue, stimulate thinking and exchange of opinions on supporting and fostering democracy and peace all over the world while providing a common platform for education and information exchange.
My research also revealed that their activities in Nigeria span through conferences, seminars, awards ceremonies and quite a host of other events tailored to foster unity and peaceful coexistence amongst Nigerians. UFUK Dialogue serves societal peace, love, and friendship wisely and compassionately in support of human dignity and the common good by striving to bring forth the common values of humanity; values such as understanding, tolerance, respect, and compassion.
In the course of my research, I interacted with quite some people that have either attended events organized by UFUK Dialogue in the past and some officials of the NGO too. And the language was the same. So impressed I was that promised myself to be a regular face at events organized by the NGO. As a fact, the revered Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Cardinal John Onayekan does not miss any event hosted by UFUK Dialogue. There are also some other respected personalities like Bishop Hassan Mathew Kukah, Sheik Ahmed Lemu that has in one way or the other identified with UFUK Dialogue. My research also afforded me the opportunity to interact with the President of UFUK Dialogue, Mr. Kamil Kemanchi. Mr. Kemanchi radiates passion for what he is doing, and he readily says that “We have no one particular agenda and no inherent ideology, other than respect and genuine concern for the spiritual quality and welfare of life on this planet of ours.”
He made me understand that UFUK Dialogue aims to be one of the most active and effective foundations in Nigeria by contributing to peace through dialogue and creating a platform for the coexistence of cultures and adherents of different faiths and ethnicities. This got me thinking about the scores of conflicts we have experienced in Nigeria in times past. And to play back the scenario and imagined that UFUK has been in Nigeria the years preaching the message of love and tolerance through dialogue what could have been averted.
This is what Nigeria needs. We need to go back to those days where a Muslim can dine freely with a Christian without fear of food poisoning and vice versa. We missed it a long time ago and the earlier we began to preach the language of love and tolerance the better for the upcoming generation.
Only recently, UFUK Dialogue organized an international conference on Love and Tolerance in collaboration with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Abuja. The theme of the conference was countering violent extremism in Nigeria through love and patience. Those in attendance would readily attest to the strategic importance of such a conference at a time the country is battling insurgents in North East Nigeria. I think the activities of UFUK Dialogue should be encouraged by the government and critical stakeholders. I am aware that it already enjoys tremendous support from some speakers. But it can be better because the message of Love and Tolerance must reach the nook and cranny of Nigeria using the UFUK Dialogue model.
The activities of UFUK Dialogue in Nigeria is sponsored by the First Surat Group of Companies, the parent organization of the Nigerian Tulip International Colleges (NTIC), Nile University (NU) and the Nizamiye Hospital (NH)