Worried by the troubling prevalence of violence and conflicts across the world, especially in Africa due to the erosion of moral values and collapse of the family system, a non-profit organization, Toguna for Peace and Development Foundation, is rallying stakeholders behind an initiative for the revival of the African traditional method of promoting peace through dialogue.
In furtherance of this objective, the Foundation, in collaboration with its partners, has rolled out a three-level peace initiative beginning with Children’s Essay completion in Abuja.
At the official opening of the programme on 12 February 2016, various speakers emphasized the critical importance of the “triangle” or “tripod” of peace in any society – the family, children and the youth.
In her welcome address at the opening held at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja, Dr. Mariane Ngoulla, Executive Director, Toguna Peace Foundation provided a background to the Peace Dialogue concept which she said struck her during a visit to Mali some 20 years ago.
Toguna, she said, is a traditional shelter in Mali, from the Dogon tribe, where the elders meet to discuss the affairs of the community. The shelter’s low height compels everyone to bend to go in and remain seated on the floor. “This is to remindus that we must humble ourselves, seat respectfully and dialogue for peace since every problem has a solution,” Dr. Ngoulla explained.
“Peace is about me, you and all of us,” she emphasized, adding: “You must be at peace with yourself in order to give peace, because you cannot give what you do not have.”
According to her, Toguna Peace Foundation is focusing on the “three pillars that define the future of our society: the Children, Youth and the Family,” adding: “only a peaceful person can bring up a peaceful child, who will become a peaceful youth, that will establish a peaceful family, foundation for a peaceful society, country and the world.”
Dr. Ngoulla further emphasized that the Toguna peace initiative is most relevant today, especially in view of the unending conflicts and crises confronting the world, from individual level to the family and to the larger society, stressing that dialogue is the bedrock of a peaceful family, community, nation and humanity.
This concept of dialoguing for peace, informed the three-level peace events, part of a series planned by the Toguna Peace Foundation, and which included a Youth Debate, at the Abuja Millennium Park on Sunday 14 February 2016, to be followed with a Family Sharing programme on 12 March 2016.
Paul Ejime Speaking at the Ocassion
Also speaking at the opening ceremony, while seated under the “Toguna Shelter,” Prof. Oshita Oshita, Director General of the Institute, commended the creativity of the Toguna Peace Foundation for reminding Africans of their past noble system with teachable lessons for the growth and development of a peaceful society.
“The Institute (for Peace and Conflict Resolution) is happy to be associated with this concept,” the Director General assured, stressing that this concept of dialoguing for peace should not only be “deepened but also replicated” across modern societies.
Lamenting the evasion of foreign cultures and the grave threat to the African traditional system, he called for a revival of African values towards conflict resolution.
“To be associated with peace, you must be humble,” Prof. Oshita stressed in a reference to the unique design of the Toguna shelter.
Similarly, representatives of the other Toguna Peace Foundation partners in their goodwill messages also underscored the importance of dialogue as a preferred path to peace. The partners, including the Yakubu Gowon Centre, the Kukah Centre, the Peoples Creative Empowerment International, and the Junior Chamber International, an organization of youths with membership in more than 162 countries across the world, pledged their total support to the Toguna peace initiative.
The programme also featured the rendition of the Toguna Peace Song and a drama sketch illustrating how issues can be resolved amicably through dialogue.
Four schools, the SOS School, Gwagwalada; Regina Pacis College, Garki, Sam King International School, Karu, and the Starlight Education Centre, Madala, as well as the Junior Chamber International youth group, participated in the Essay Competition and the Youth Debate, which took place at the Millennium Park, Abuja on Sunday 14th February 2016.
The winners of the Essay Competition and the Youth Debate, who are now “Toguna Artisans” for peace, will receive their prizes during the Family Sharing programme on 12 March 2016.