Religious leaders and ordinary people in Nigeria are in pain but believe a "transformed reality" is possible, according to a Christian and Muslim delegation visiting local communities last week amid an increase in violence that has threatened relations between the two religious communities in Northern Nigeria.
The delegation, which included members of the Royal Jordanian Aal Al-Bayt Institute and the World Council of Churches, issued a joint statement on Tuesday after a fact-finding mission where they met with members of communities in the capital city of Abuja, and the northern cities of Kaduna and Jos.
Individuals they met with included government officials, religious leaders, traditional rulers and the families of victims of violence.
"We have been told that we are the first high level international interreligious delegation of Christians and Muslims to visit Nigeria, certainly in recent years," the delegation said.
The group - led by Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, Chairman of the Institute - expects to issue a detailed report of the visit in June, identifying areas where Christians and Muslims can work together to end violence.
"In hearing the pain of those who have spoken to us we also caught a glimmer of their dreams, and the hopes of many, both religious leaders and ordinary people, that a transformed reality is possible," the delegation said in a joint statement.
"We express our admiration of all those who spoke to us in a way that made it clear that they did not want their faith to be used as a pretext to propagate violence."
The group said it looked "forward to the day when Christians and Muslims of Nigeria may offer an example of working together to the international community.'
The group also thanked the Christian Council of Nigeria and the office of the Sultan Sokoto for making the visit possible.
The WCC reports that the idea of a joint Christian-Muslim cooperation in response to situations of violence emerged in 2007 and was followed by a 2010 meeting where 60 religious leaders agreed to work together.
According to a November 2010 statement, a joint working group would be activated "whenever a crisis threatens to arise in which Christians and Muslims find themselves in conflict."