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Service for Foreign Policy Instruments

Promoting religious harmony in Niger

An IcSP-funded project has helped to promote religious reconciliation through dialogue and foster social cohesion. It has given young people confidence to engage for a peaceful future.

Niger's transition to democracy – following a constitutional crisis and military coup in 2010 – has been further complicated by religious tensions and turbulence in neighbouring states. By bringing together competing factions and encouraging dialogue, the IcSP-funded REVE project has played a crucial role in helping to ensure that the country remains on the path to peace and prosperity, at a time when politics is at the forefront of public life.

The REVE project, which ran from January 2014 to November 2015, consisted of 20 separate initiatives that supported religious leaders to develop initiatives for peaceful development. Activities were organised in the capital Niamey, as well as the towns of Maradi, Zinder and Diffa. A total of 64 000 young people took part, along with 36 youth and religious organisations.

The project successfully launched inter-religious committees in the four target areas. Christian and Muslim organisations came together to conduct radio broadcasts, hold joint conferences, and run community conflict resolution and prevention programmes. Around 2.7 million people were reached through REVE's media partners. A monitoring campaign to record and evaluate hate speech was also supported.

Workshops to promote inter- and intra-religious dialogue, understanding and reconciliation brought Muslims and Christians together. The goal was to show young people and religious figures that they can all work together to ensure peace in Niger and build a brighter future. These workshops focused on risk factors, including the rise in extremism and religious intolerance in neighbouring countries, pressure caused by the return of Nigeriens from abroad, and recruitment of young people into Boko Haram, a terrorist militia, from south-eastern Niger.

Young people, in particular, are at risk of succumbing to the extremist narratives of religious groups. The project also used sport and culture to reach Niger's youth; one organisation, AJDE (Alliance des Jeunes pour le Développement Endogène), organised basketball tournaments for local youths, during which participants wore t-shirts with the message: "Peace, our promise."

It is hoped that REVE's successes can be replicated in order to further promote peace and prevent conflict. "After the declaration of the controversial results of the presidential election in March 2016, there was calm in Zinder," says Bachir Abba, general secretary of the inter-religious dialogue committee in Zinder: "This can in part be linked to the work of the inter-religious and conflict prevention committees." Similarly, the Reverend Father Sani Nomaou, general secretary of the inter-religious committee in Maradi, said that working with the inter-religious committee has given fresh perspective: "We can look at each other and tell ourselves that we are all the same."

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