The American University of Nigeria (AUN) has won the first Africa Regional Peer-to-Peer, P2P, Challenging Extremism Competition, which was held in Ghana on January 13. Thirty-two African universities competed.
Team AUN comprising Zamiyat Abubakar, Abdulmalik Aminu, Exploits Nicholas, Hafiz Michika, and Mohammed Ahmed– a multidisciplinary selection from three of AUN’s schools–faced off with counterparts from the University for Development Studies, Ghana, UDS, which was the first runner-up, and Tunis Business School, Tunisia, TBS, the second runner-up.
Congratulating the victorious team, President Margee Ensign said: “All of us at AUN are so proud of our students, and of the faculty who assisted them, in winning this important international award. The creativity, intelligence, hard work, and vision which went into this project, which promotes inter-religious understanding and tolerance, reflect what is best about the American University of Nigeria. May we all continue to build a more thoughtful, peaceful, and just world together”.
AUN received the first prize of $5,000. The first runner-up prize of $3,000 won by UDS and TBS, the second runner-up, earned $1,000. The Accra, Ghana, outing was the first P2P challenge on extremism competition to be organized for Africa since the Challenging Extremism program kicked off 17 years ago.
Team AUN’s #IAmABeliever campaign was strongly commended by Facebook, Edventure Partners, and by officials of the U.S. State Department, co-sponsors of the competition. The judges described the campaign as “extraordinarily coherent”.
Providing more insight, AUN Faculty Adviser who led the Team to Ghana,Jacob Jacob, said, “Our students worked extremely hard. Their presentation was very coherent. Winning this competition shows our expertise within a region that is extremely important and on a very important topic.”
Mr. Jacob, who is interim associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and chair of the Communications and Multimedia program further confirmed that “. . . various governmental and non-governmental organizations have expressed interest in the students’ campaign, and rightly so. I can’t see a better key to countering violent extremism, which has to be led by young people and delivered peer to peer. It has to be backed by research and must be well targeted.”
The campaign revolved around the concept, “I am a Believer, but I am also human, a brother, a sister, an artisan, a father, a mother, and a student.” It seeks to respect and validate everyone’s beliefs as beliefs, distinct from the believer, while emphasising interdependence, interrelatedness, shared beliefs and values, and a common sense of humanity.
As part of the campaign, team AUN created a digital tool Beliepedia that provides an online space to show Islamic and Christian teachings and scriptural texts on some challenging questions on human existence, such as What is the purpose of life? and Why does God permit suffering? The tool allows readers to comment and share posts on social media. It also enables Christian and Muslim leaders and clerics to post answers to questions.
AUN students also created campaign videos and social media posts, as well as various social activities including a stories-for-peace workshop in Mubi. The workshop brought Muslims and Christian groups together to share stories of their escape when Boko Haram invaded the town in 2014. The event helped to heal past wounds, bringing the two religious communities together.
The Challenging Extremism competition is designed to empower students around the world to develop and execute campaigns and media strategies against extremism that are credible, authentic, and viewable to their peers, and which resonate within their communities.
The finalists of the Africa Regional Competition emerged through a series of contests involving the 32 participating universities on the continent. Altogether 286 universities worldwide are engaged in the contest.
As Africa’s representative, AUN will now have to face off with winners from other continents in a final showdown in the United States later this year.
More information about the campaign can be found at www.iamabeliever.org.
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