Boston, MA (PRWEB) March 05, 2013
Professor Darren Kew, a leading expert on political development and religious conflict resolution in Nigeria, heads a University of Massachusetts Boston team that received part of a $5 million federal grant to promote peace in the conflict-plagued African nation.
Kew is executive director of UMass Boston’s Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development (CPDD), whose faculty and graduate students will collaborate with the Interfaith Mediation Centre (IMC) and other partners under the five-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. IMC is a grassroots peace organization in Nigeria that works to build understanding among political, social, and religious groups.
The CPDD team will work with their Nigerian partners and Watertown-based Public Conversations Project to defuse Muslim-Christian tensions that threaten national security and peaceful coexistence. The population of Nigeria is almost evenly split between adherents of Islam and Christianity; many political and social disputes can be traced to this religious divide.
“Nigeria right now is under tremendous pressure,” Kew said. “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.”
The project includes a high-tech effort to create an early warning system that identifies “flashpoints” of possible violence so IMC’s network partners can respond. Kew and Madhawa Palihapitiya, associate director of the UMass Boston-based Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration, will develop the system in Kaduna, Nigeria this summer, using technology donated by Microsoft.
"The idea is that any member of the network in Nigeria can use their smartphone, send text messages, or go online to report a violent clash breaking out," Kew said.
The UMass Boston team will also help IMC form conflict resolution strategies, engage the community and media, and provide developmental support as the organization moves away from an all-volunteer structure to rely more on professional staff. Kew and Associate Professor Eben Weitzman, chair of the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance, visited Nigeria in January to begin their work.
IMC was founded by a group of religious leaders including Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, former enemies who reconciled in the mid-1990s and now work together to promote greater understanding among Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. Wuye and Ashafa received honorary doctorates from UMass Boston in 2012.
“Professors Kew and Weitzman deserve special recognition for taking on something so gutsy and important,” said Ira Jackson, dean of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, which houses CPDD.
About the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development
The Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston is dedicated to advancing peace, democracy, rule of law, and economic and social development at home and abroad. Working with local partners, CPDD assists in peace building and conflict resolution; strengthening local government and civil society; promoting viable, independent media; helping judiciaries become more effective and more transparent; and promoting greater educational and economic opportunities.