© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Tor Iorapuu, centre, chats with Mary Boyd, left, and Laura Perfili, right, of the Catholic Church's Organization for Development and Peace following a presentation at the annual Lenten Solidarity Workshop at St. Pius X Church in Charlottetown Sunday. As executive director of a youth action centre in Nigeria, Iorapuu spoke about how the church's campaign has helped work towards tolerance and democracy in the country.
Tor Iorapuu hopes to see the day when his home country of Nigeria is united, rather than divided, by its different religious and ethnic groups.
Much of the goal lies within uniting Christian and Muslim youth in an area of extreme tension, Iorapuu said, while giving a presentation in P.E.I. this weekend.
As the executive director of the Youth, Adolescence, Reflection and Action Centre (YARAC) in Northern Nigeria, Iorapuu has seen firsthand the effectiveness of youth working together to promote tolerance and democracy.
"It's worked out because they began to become the leaders and vanguards of peace building in their various communities by uniting and connecting people," Iorapuu said to a large crowd at St. Pius X Church Sunday. "We're growing. It's not to a large scale yet but we're making huge progress."
Iorapuu was the guest speaker for the annual Lenten Solidarity Workshop held at the church on Sunday.
"Creating a Climate of Change" is this year's theme for Share Lent Campaign held by the Canadian Catholic Church's Organization for Development and Peace.
Creating change within Nigeria, which currently has a number of ethnic, political and racial tensions, was the focus of Iorapuu's presenation.
Nigeria achieved democracy in 1999 after previously being ruled by a military dictatorship.
However, the region is still facing a number of challenges, many stemming from a violent Islamic insurgency by terrorist group Boko Haram.
The group, which is related to ISIS, has intensified since 2009, and achieved worldwide notoriety when members abducted 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.
Thousands of others have been displaced, killed or injured by the group, which has increased distrust between Muslims and Christians in the country.
Iorapuu, who is a partner with Development and Peace, said he's trying to combat the divisions weakening the country's young democracy.
"Somewhere along the line, political classes, religious fundamentalists and others turned this whole thing upside," he said. "Rather than help Nigerians appreciate, recognize and acknowledge one another, they made it look as though we're different. Yet we've already been working together for a long time.
"Somewhere along the line, political classes, religious fundamentalists and others turned this whole thing upside. Rather than help Nigerians appreciate, recognize and acknowledge one another, they made it look as though we're different. Yet we've already been working together for a long time." Tor Iorapuu, executive director of the Youth, Adolescence, Reflection and Action Centre (YARAC) in Northern Nigeria.
"Essentially, it's how do we go back to where we came from."
The presentation, which included pictures of some of the violence within the country, was eye-opening for many in crowd.
However, Iorapuu also left the crowd with a sign of hope, said Mary Boyd.
"He has a wonderful inspiring program with youth where they're learning about democracy and how to participate in and build a democratic society. They're learning leadership," said Boyd, who is the chair of the Diocese of Charlottetown's Council of Development and Peace.
Development and Peace lends support to more than 100 different projects in struggling countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Middle East.
Iorapuu, the Dean of Arts and Professor of Applied and Social Theatre at the University of Jos, said he combines teaching with grassroots activism.
Much of YARAC's methods includes using tools of empowerment and change, such as community organizing, theatre for development, sports programs like "Soccer for Democracy" and other peace building activities.
Boyd said Iorapuu seemed to be "born with a gift to do social justice"
"He's had a fantastic life of giving to his community and country, and now he's sharing that internationally as well," said Boyd. "He shows Islanders how important it is to be in solidarity with the efforts of people in Nigeria and many other countries."
Iorapuu said Development and Peace's work to help Nigerians has had a major effect and stretches back many years, even to when the country was ruled by military dictatorship.
"The fruits of your kindness are beginning to yield results. It's because of your support and kindness that many parts of the world are starting to see something different," he said. "We might not achieve 100 per cent results but 100 per cent efforts will make a huge difference."