From Being Targeted To Building PeaceMichael Olufemi Sodipo
From Being Targeted To Building Peace
A local peacebuilder shares his story on how his life being at stake inspired him to make a change in his community.
My name is Michael Olufemi Sodipo. I have lived in Kano, Northern Nigeria for 36 years now. I am a Christian living in a predominately Muslim area. In the beginning, my days were filled with love, joy, and happiness. Then one day, I almost lost my life.
There was an incident between Christians and Muslims in Shendam Yelwa, —a town in Central Nigeria—and dead bodies were being brought back to Kano. The whole city erupted and the young people in Kano were going to retaliate. Somebody decided I should be attacked and tipped off a militia in another area to come here and do it.
That morning, I was being chased by about 100 young boys who wanted to kill me. I hid at a neighbor’s house —a Muslim—for four hours, and watched from their window my house and car burned down. I have lived in this community for 19 years, and now I was being seen as a stranger who should be killed. That was a turning point for me. I wanted to change the trend towards violence, and so I founded a local peacebuilding organization, Peace Initiative Network.
I had first-hand experience of violence but I did not know how science can play a part in the solution. In partnership with Beyond Conflict, I got involved in the Decoding Dehumanization project. One of the first things we did was a workshop that brought together 25 local peacebuilders, media researchers, and activists. We looked at the psychology of dehumanization and inter-religious violence. It was from there, for the very first time, I could see the link between science and conflict resolution.
Through this experience, I learned that I need to change the way I talk and the way I look at others. To do no harm. Even as a peacebuilder, you need to be very sensitive to people’s culture. In the process of building peace, one can also aggravate tension. We need to be mindful of our talks, our actions, and how we relate to others.
Michael Sodipo (far right in white) and peacebuilders in Nigeria after Beyond Conflict’s workshop._
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