Peace Is Not Merely The Absence Of War: What The Case Of Abuja in Nigeria Teaches Us About Workplace Conflict

Summary of:

‘We Aren’t Killing Each Other, but We Bear Grudges that Could Be Sparked’: How Interreligious ‘Peace’ and Non-peace Coexist in a West African City, Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2020.1812251

Background & Theory

How is peace defined? Merely as the absence of war, or also the presence of positive, cooperative relations between two communities? This paper seeks to examine the relationship between the Christian and Muslim communities in Abuja, Nigeria. The communities haven’t seen any violent conflict for a long time, but that does not necessarily mean that there is peace between them. The author has tried to explore ideas beyond the conventional definitions of “positive peace versus negative peace” in conflict research via this ethnographic exercise.

Research Question(s)

The author tried to answer the following question:

  1. What is the relationship between the Christian and Muslim communities in Abuja, Nigeria?

Methods

The author followed the classic ethnographic research method of structured and unstructured interviews. He resided in the Wuse district of Abuja for a few months to document the responses of numerous stakeholders in these communities. Using the purposive sampling method, he interviewed over 90 people, including 17 religious authorities and 73 lay believers, all between the ages of 20 and 65.

Results

Abuja is considered the most peaceful and safe district in the country and also receives special attention from the federal government. Although it is relatively the most peaceful region in the country since it hasn’t witnessed violence in many years, things were not entirely positive. The author found that there were (a) interreligious and intrareligious divisions, fears, suspicions and stereotypes, (b) insecurity, instability and lack of confidence in the state, and (c) other major threats to the existing relative peace, including extreme poverty, social media, elections, and political conflicts, and external threats despite there being a lack of violence.

How This Translates for the Workplace

  • Create an Environment of Dialogue: It is often the case that underlying tensions and conflicts are hidden, and manifest in passive-aggressive ways in the workplace or any society where violence is not the common norm of behavior. Such tensions can remain for a long time unless management takes active steps to ensure that employees have safe spaces to have a dialogue with their colleagues and resort to more positive coping mechanisms. Workplace politics is a battle that many working professionals are familiar with. Team leaders must be versed with understanding the energy of the room, and be able to intervene when required to ensure that conflict does not escalate further from covert tensions to overt actions.
  • Invest in Third-Party Intervention and Investigation: Companies can start by investing in talent that they believe has a cooperative and peaceful nature, for it is also important for employees to have the tools to confront and resolve conflict. Without the ability to identify their own needs and values, manage complex emotions, and treat everyone equally, safe spaces and managerial intervention can do little to ensure a peaceful environment long-term. Diversity, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence trainings must also become a part of company culture. Efforts to acquire such values can lead to more authentic, true, and sustainable peace for the workplace. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Get in touch with us to know more.