USAID Convenes Interfaith Dialogues for Religious and Civic Leaders in Nigeria

Abuja – Over the last five years, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the training of more than 8,500 political, clerical, and civic leaders on religious tolerance in an effort to mitigate ethno-religious conflict in some of Nigeria’s most volatile regions.

The assistance from USAID was provided through the Training of Leaders on Religious and National Coexistence (TOLERANCE) activity.  On February 23, USAID/Nigeria Mission Director Stephen M. Haykin joined Minister of Interior Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau and other Nigerian government officials and religious leaders at a closing ceremony to mark the end of the activity cycle

The TOLERANCE project helped increase political stability and ensure development in the northeast, northwest, and north central regions through religious tolerance and interfaith understanding.  The training of civic leaders was augmented by a broad-based media outreach campaign that transmitted ideas about peaceful resolution of conflict over radio and television to millions of Nigerians

“[This] activity provided a platform for communities to discuss issues such as land disputes, advocate for religious freedom, and diminish too-common practices of stereotyping, discrimination, and rumor-mongering that may lead to violence,” Haykin said at the event.  “Through a new platform for building trust, thousands of members of the many ethnic groups are embracing peace and cooperation in Nigeria’s multi-cultural communities.”

TOLERANCE sought to enfranchise women and youth groups, as well as the disabled, in an effort to promote reconciliation through cultural exchange, peace rallies, and sporting activities to bring communities together to work for peace, developing an early warning system that identified trends and improved responsiveness to potential violence before it occurred

The activity, which provided psycho-social services including trauma counseling to the victims of insurgency, particularly the Chibok girls and their parents in the Northeast.

To create civic structures capable of identifying trends in conflict and mobilizing to minimize potential flash points, TOLERANCE supported Nigerian efforts to establish Conflict Management and Mitigation Regional Councils in seven states:   Bauchi, Borno, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, and Sokoto

The Councils focus on conflict prevention, mitigation, peacebuilding, and conflict early warning systems, and actively carry out peace interventions in communities and publicly respond to violent incidents that help calm tensions

Comprised of religious, private sector, and civil society leaders, the Councils raise awareness of potential violence and advocate for improved government responsiveness in areas susceptible to conflict, and support mediation between farmer and pastoralist groups leading to a historic peace accord in Kaduna State

Implemented by the Interfaith Media Centre, the TOLERANCE activity encouraged men and women, young people, and people living with disabilities to participate in peacebuilding in their communities, training more than 1,500 people on religious

This training helped strengthen relationships between Christians and Muslims, especially the leading women’s faith-based organizations, who worked together across religious lines to promote peace in their communities.

About USAID: USAID partners to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity. I n its partnership with Nigeria, the United States strengthens social stability through social services, supports transparent and accountable governance, promotes a more market led economy, and enhances Nigeria’s capacity as a responsible regional and trade partner.  For more information about USAID and its programs, please visit

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