Hafsat Abiola (born 1980) is a Nigerian human rights, civil rights and democracy activist, founder of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), which seeks to strengthen civil society and promote democracy in Nigeria.
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Architects of Peace (2000)
- In much of precolonial Nigeria, and indeed Africa, ethnic nations organized people within communities into peer groups and trained them, from babyhood to old age, to serve their communities. When successful, this system provided all members of a community not only with a sense of belonging but also with a vehicle for helping to shape the community's direction and pace of change. In this system, people knew they were entitled to help resolve any issue that affected the community.
This sense of entitlement grows out of a series of rituals that begin the day a child is born. When a baby is born, after the first few seconds, it lets out a yelp, which announces its arrival, and which is met by expressions of joy. Among the Yoruba, the arrival is acknowledged with a naming ceremony where parents give names that express rich meaning and hopes for the baby. When I arrived, my parents named me Hafsat Olaronke, which means the treasured one and honor is being cared for. For my parents, they saw in me one who would be cherished and who would bring honor to her community. Many in other parts of the world are impressed when they discover my name's meanings, but the truth is that most African names have beautiful meanings.
- Unlike the small community, where every person lives in the illusion of having the same ideals, beliefs, and values as everyone else, in the larger context of plural communities-be it in country, continent, or globe — we live in the illusion of absolute difference. So, fearing the possibility that the interaction will change us, we magnify the threat involved in engaging with that which differs from us. Change is stressful, and costly, because it requires learning to navigate the unfamiliar. In the end, you cannot work with anyone who is different, and problems that could be resolved if we allowed everyone to contribute the best of themselves begin to look intractable.
- Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone.
But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are.