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Religious Extremism: Global, Local, and Dangerous

Extremism exists anywhere there is power - in politics, in economics, and religion. Yet religious extremism is often the most visible.  It shows up as oppression, domination, and violence and can destabilize communities, countries - even entire continents. 

Boko Haram Terrorists (Wiki Commons)

Boko Haram Terrorists (Wiki Commons)

Throughout history rogue extremists have relied on religion to justify or fuel their actions, seeking leverage wherever they can find it.  Today a terrorist organization such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, can easily find, lure, and radicalize at-risk youth online, even those from the United States. While their message may appear to be religious, it is almost always politically motivated and laced with misinformation and inflammable language designed to incite extremist behavior.   

Religious extremism must be transformed into cooperation.  Any form of extremism is hard to eradicate but religious extremism is the hardest. The traditional tools available to governments - military action and state diplomacy- often do not work. In Nigeria, for instance, Boko Haram members are embedded within communities and cannot be easily bombed out of existence. Moreover, governments are not equipped to negotiate with non-state actors.

There is one – perhaps only one - viable option: “Winning hearts and minds" - something most governments don't do well. Churches and mosques, on the other hand, are skilled at winning hearts and minds and serve face to face at a local level.

But here's the challenge: religious leaders, in their quest for peace, are too often caught up defending their own religious doctrines, debating the merits of their theology over the others, and this does nothing to build peace.

That is where OMNIA comes in.

Interfaith Peacemaker Teams: A Proven Path to Peaceful Progress

OMNIA has developed a proven strategy of building teams of clergy and lay leaders of all religions. We call them Interfaith Peacemaker Teams. 

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OMNIA’s Interfaith Peacemaker Teams are not U.S. volunteers sent to unfamiliar conflict regions around the world. Instead, OMNIA responds to invitations from countries that are desperate for peace and willing to engage in OMNIA’s method of peacemaking. We know that conflicts as well as the seeds of peace - are local. This is what makes OMNIA Interfaith Peacemaker Teams unique.

Over the past year OMNIA has been working in Northeastern Nigeria, headquarters of the dreaded Boko Haram. We have trained and equipped more than 50 Interfaith Peacemaker Teams to lead their communities in peaceful and powerful collaborative action. Through OMNIA Interfaith Peacemaker Teams, religion is no longer fuel for conflict but is instead a catalyst for progress.

Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka has prompted religious leaders to invite OMNIA to build Interfaith Peacemaker Teams in the regions rocked by conflict and violence.  Already OMNIA has begun building some 25 Interfaith Peacemaker Teams.

Our Approach: From Strength to Strength

OMNIA creates Interfaith Peacemaker Teams using each community’s inherent strengths, including people, resources, and services that, when joined together, form an even stronger action network. Our commitment to private/public partnerships (P3s) includes:

●      Influential Clergy and Lay Religious Leaders

●      Key Women’s Groups and Leaders

●      Governmental Leaders, Services, and Organizations

●      Community-based Leaders and Organizations

Making Peace Work

 Interfaith Peacemaker Teams engage the best resources within every community to help turn the tide of extremist violence to create a new season of peaceful cooperation. It’s happening in Nigeria and in Sri Lanka. Together, let’s take it to the rest of the world!  You can become a team member - through your voice, your involvement, and your financial support!  

Learn more about OMNIA Interfaith Peacemaker Teams in Sri Lanka: