opinionBy Hajiya Bilkisu
Mni — The venue of the meeting is a quiet part Wuse District in Abuja; but on Friday afternoons it becomes a busy arcade as people gather for the congregational prayer. On January 9, 2013, we meandered our way through the chaotic traffic to reach the Ufuk Dialogue Foundation.
We were there to honour the foundation's invitation extended to members of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) to an afternoon of networking, knowledge sharing and project familiarisation tour.
Among the delegation were the Chairperson of NAWOJ in Abuja, Aishatu Ali Kadal of Aso Radio, Kemi George of Access Africa magazine, Madina Dauda of Voice of America (VOA), Senme Ohiamohare of Africa Independent Television (AIT), Ese Ericat Ekama, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN); Chizoba Ogbeche, Blueprint newspaper and my humble self. The National President of NAWOJ, Mrs Asabe Baba Nahaya who was unavoidably absent was represented by her deputy Veronica Ogbole
We were received by two staff members of the Foundation, Emine Tuyku the Women Affairs coordinator, Suleiman Yahaya of Corporate Relations Department and a visiting consultant and writer on women affairs, Havva Ergene Isik. The event began with a film show about the foundation's work in Nigeria. Emine Tuyku who invited us also introduced the foundation's activities. Ufuk Dialogue Foundation was established in 2011 in Nigeria. The organisation's mission is 'to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue, stimulate thinking and exchange of opinions.
It supports democracy and peace all over the world and provides a common platform for education and information exchange.' UFUK serves humanity by promoting the common good and values of humanity; understanding, tolerance, respect, and compassion. The Foundation envisions a community in which people from all walks of life interact with each other and cooperate to serve their communities, thereby strengthening civil society and promoting the development of human values.
Ufuk Dialogue Foundation supports the work of organizations and individuals in furthering peaceful relations, respect, and understanding between people of different faiths, beliefs and ideologies. It works with adherents of all views, and encourages a free exchange of ideas.
Ufuk Foundation has focused on promoting education, exchange of information, opinions and expertise. The foundation's activities include organising conferences, seminars, panel discussions, scholarships, publications, meetings, study tours and other activities. As journalists we were delighted to know that Ufuk Dialogue Foundation also publishes Fountain Magazine in Nigeria which is a bimonthly magazine of science and spiritual thought that explores life and our existence through a wide range of subjects from humanities to natural sciences and faith perspectives.
We watched a documentary of the foundation's first peace and dialogue event in Abuja, an interfaith activity which was attended by dignitaries from all walks of life. Cardinal of Abuja Catholic Community, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan delivered an inspiring message of interfaith harmony. He said: 'I am happy to be here in Iftar dinner during the Ramadan. We must spread the message of good neighbourliness, brotherhood and sisterhood. We will continue to go all over the world and say if you want to see where Christians and Muslims are living together in peace and mutual respect, come to Nigeria. I used to say so many years and I think I can still say so. The average Nigerian Muslim and Christian want to live together and they are doing so. As adherents of these two great religions, Islam and Christianity we are able to manage our differences. Above all, we are able to exploit to the maximum our commonalities. If we hold on to the common faith; believing only in one God, every other thing can be managed, but I believe people forget that.' He expressed appreciation to Ufuk Dialogue Foundation for bringing the faith communities together. The event witnessed the presentation of 'Dialogue and Peace Awards' to the Executive Secretary of the Abuja National Mosque which was received by a staff of the mosque, Malam Abdulkarim and Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja for their immense contributions to promoting dialogue among the faith based groups.
After watching the documentary, we proceeded on field visit which took us to the Nigerian Turkish International College, the Nigeria Turkish Nile University NTNU and a hospital project. The Nigerian Turkish International College NTIC started with humble beginnings in September 1998. The school opened with 23 students on a rented site at Cairo Street, Wuse 2, Abuja. Like an acorn, the NTIC has expanded into a network of schools located in Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Ogun and Yobe States. This phenomenal growth is attributable to the quality of Education obtainable in the NTIC group of schools The university was established to continue with this tradition to provide students with opportunities of quality university education that will position them to face global challenges.
At the NTNU we were received by the University's Deputy Vice Chancellor, Mr Burhanettin Usta, and his staff and were conducted round the unique architectural structure. We were briefed on its history and establishment, and the universal message that tertiary level education forms the bedrock development of any nation. One could not but wish all our universities could provide quality education, be as organised, clean and homely as the NTNU. There will be no need to send our children abroad for university education. We had lunch with women lecturers and Mr Usta, at the university's Fountain Garden.
The delegation also visited the massive hospital project under construction at Karmo satellite town which on completion will provide ultra modern facilities complete with VIP amenity wards and security. This will hopefully fill the vacuum in health care services and check the frequent trips Nigerians undertake abroad for medical treatment. We were informed that the project is a donation to the Nigerian people by a group of Turkish business people. What a lesson in philanthropy! After our field visits, we went to Emine Tuyku's home for a relaxed chat over Turkish tea and listened to one of the sisters play traditional sufi music from a flute. It was a sober moment.