Founder of Peace Revival and Reconciliation Foundation of Nigeria, Pastor Yohanna Buru, has stressed the importance of exploring all sorts of sporting activities across the country in promoting peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance between Muslims, Christians and other faith-based organizations, as a way of tackling ethno-religious and political volatility bedeviling peace stability in the country.
Pastor Buru, who is a Peace Ambassador from Northern Nigeria, disclosed this during an interview with journalists, shortly after finishing cyclist and skating for peace games competition in Kaduna, to mark the World Interfaith Harmony Week.
He said sport is a cost-effective, flexible and powerful tool in promoting peace and development objectives, because it brings people together, regardless of their origins and backgrounds, creates strong social cohesion and bonds, and facilitates mutual understanding and dialogue, adding that sport also promotes universal values that transcend language and culture. “Therefore, sport has unique potential, and can be used for social change around the world,” he said.
Buru further explained that the idea of using sports is to advance peace endeavors in their daily battle in the search of peace, while positing that “But, it’s nevertheless a new strategy for social intervention, which has recently become a platform for the implementation of development through exploring the use of sports at various physical activities with the purpose of propelling peace and promoting economic development – geared towards peace building and conflict resolutions.”
According to the pastor, the contribution of sports in peace building in troubled communities cannot be overemphasized, adding that the community level sports has the unique power to attract, mobilize and create an atmosphere where people can come together and work together towards the same goal and show respect to one another.
“Therefore, sports can contribute to development, create jobs, support the economy and promote gender equality. It’s also a universal language and as powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and better understanding among different organizations by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions with diverse ethnicity differences.
“Additionally, sporting activities like football can serve as a weapon to replace the various weapons like the AK-47 guns, which are used in killing during conflict times. Some countries have accepted sporting activities as a cultural symbol, which is used in bringing individuals of that particular community or country together.
“Sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire. Its intrinsic values – teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game – can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
Pastor Buru said, “We, in the Peace Revival and Reconciliation Foundation of Nigeria, have decided that sports are the perfect vehicle for our goals in bringing together and empowering communities in Nigeria – indigenes and settlers, Muslims and Christians, and all ethnic groups. We use sport to let people understand and appreciate each other’s beliefs, values and ways of better life – leading to tolerance, harmonious and peaceful Nigeria.
“Globally, it is known that the general public, Armed Forces and all lovers of peace are putting measures in place to help build peace in troubled communities but are finding it difficult to rebuild.”
Pastor Buru then called on wealthy individuals, companies, states and federal government to find means of promoting peace, using sports in areas affected with various crisis at local communities for the integration of the people, as sports has been recognized as a powerful tool for preventing conflicts and promoting peaceful co–existence in the society.
“Sports can also serve as a conflict prevention measure, helping to forestall the process that leads to the generation of aggression, hatred and fear, which are the key ingredients of conflicts. In the light of the above, sporting activities like football, hockey, volleyball, among others, can be used to help build peace in troubled communities and crisis zone areas,” he said.