Is Peace With ISIS, Boko Haram Possible? Catholic Priest and Author of 'Charity Peace Model' Explains Why It Is (Interview)


(Photo: Reuters)Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province, Syria, June 30, 2014. Militant Islamist fighters held a parade in Syria's northern Raqqa province to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al-Qaida offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

A Catholic priest, author, and founder of organizations such as Madonna University Nigeria, has said that peace, even with members of prominent terror groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, is "really possible," as long as they undergo a process of re-orientation and see who they truly are, as creations of God.

Father Emmanuel M.P. Edeh said in an email interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday that his book, Edeh's Charity Peace Model, is based on the African philosophy of mmadi, which sees man as "ontologically good, deserving dignity and respect."

Edeh said that corruption and evil, such as the actions carried by ISIS and Boko Haram, results due to man using free will to make wrong choices. He suggested that members of such terror groups have failed to understand this ontological goodness of human beings, which forms the basis of peaceful co-existence in society.

Edeh, who is also the founder of Catholic Prayer Ministry – Worldwide and Center for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Nigeria, earned both a masters degree and PhD in philosophy from De Paul University in Chicago.

His other published books include: Towards an Igbo Metaphysics; Peace to the Modern World: A Way Forward Through the Concrete Living of the Existential Dictates of the African philosophy of Being; Jesus the Saviour in our Midst, The Holy Spirit Acting in our Midst, and others.

Below is an edited transcript of Edeh's interview with CP, where he elaborates on the principles behind the mmadi philosophy, how it shapes Edeh's Charity Peace Model, and how it can be applied to major world conflicts today.

CP: According to the African Philosophy of mmadi, God is the supreme expression of good, and there is a vertical and horizontal relationship between God, humans and creatures. How and why does corruption and evil in the world occur?

Edeh: There are two key elements in relation to [t]his question: there are the philosophy of mmadi and the principle of servant leadership. The philosophy of mmadi is derived from the philosophy of being which sees man as ontologically good, deserving dignity and respect; while the principle of servant leadership is hinged on the service to humanity over and above personal interests. In this regard, when leaders see their subjects from the view point of mmadi, that is 'being good and deserving respect' then they will see it as their responsibility to provide and cater for them. There should be a flip of the leadership pyramid structure such that the leader realizes that the power he has got is for a responsibility toward the people.

On the other hand, the horizontal relationship is concerned with man's relationship with others. The relationship challenges the leader to have a true understanding of the people under his care, for they deserve respect and dignity because of their ontological nature as sharing in the good that is.

The idea of horizontal and vertical relationship entails the relationship between the highest and the lowest. The vertical relation in mmadi reflects the highest good (summum bonum) and the subsidiary. The approach from vertical relationship is between the supreme and his subjects, but the relationship has to come down to elevate our position as Jesus the Saviour did.

This is the vertical relationship as reflected in mmadi. The most powerful and the weak have a common ground where they treat each other as equals.

Here vertical relationship is tilted to become horizontal, that relationship in the pyramid structure is such that God, the highest Being, has the relationship of the creature coming down to suffer for them.

The question is: is your leader able to come down and have the true understanding with his people, thus letting the vertical relationship to inverse? So power then belongs to his subject who now shares the power and responsibility. When followed, the principle of mmadi will infuse this virtue in the people's consciousness.

The presence of evil and corruption in the world is as a result of man's free will to choose between good and bad actions. Since man is ontologically good, he is expected to radiate goodness wherever he finds himself. To this end, corruption is as a result of man's wrong choices made possible by the presence of his free will.

The philosophy of mmadi helps human to make right choices toward individuals. Freedom begets responsibility, mmadi helps us in our ability to take good actions. In other words corruption is as a result of man's inability to choose and do good. It is not in man's nature to be corrupt since man shares in the nature of the supreme good.

CP: For over five years now, terror group Boko Haram has been attacking towns, villages and communities throughout Nigeria, and it has said that its motivation is to drive out all Christians from the country. What does the mmadi philosophy say about the nature of groups like Boko Haram, and why they carry out such violence?

Edeh: Groups like Boko Haram are not truly followers of the prophet, but attack both Muslims and Christians, especially women and the weak and are against Western education.

The groups have not understood the ontological goodness of human beings which is the basis of a peaceful co-existence in the society. Violence is a sign of ignorance of this African philosophy of mmadi.

Hence there should be a universal orientation that tends to bring all humans back into the consciousness that they possess the nature of the good that is, (mmadi). Boko Haram's use of violence, especially against women and the weak, will never be a remedy for the achievement of dialogue and peace.

CP: How can Edeh's Charity Peace Model be applied to groups like Boko Haram or ISIS?

Edeh: Edeh's Charity Peace Model can be applied to any conflict around the world due to its universal application. Edeh's Peace Model arises from the universality of mmadi, the good that is, which is the focal point of the model.

Every human, including members of any terror group is mmadi, who deserves the forgiveness of God. Although their mmadi has been distorted which resulted in their acts of violence, we know that violence is never a solution to this problem. What is needed is that they go through the process of re-orientation to who they truly are as mmadi.

CP: Can peace ever be possible with the members of such groups?

Edeh: In case of the terror groups in question, peace is really possible. Originally everyone was created as the good that is, mmadi, but terror distorts this goodness. I hope all can be involved in the alleviation of these dehumanizing situations that came about as the result of distortion. Mmadi has step by step practical ways of dealing with the problem (cf Peace in pieces: Empowering the world through the Edeh's Mmadi Peace Model, Page Publishers).

CP: If peace is possible, then who is responsible for reaching out to groups like Boko Haram or ISIS to start the conversation? What role do political leaders and religious leaders have to play?

Edeh: The quest for peace is a collective responsibility. Political and religious leaders must strive to pull down structures that breed terror and should work harder to alleviate the dehumanizing situations created by these groups. Then mmadi principle can be employed in the re-orientation process of recovering their mmadi.

CP: What is needed for peace around the world? How can regular people contribute to this goal?

Edeh: As a young man I saw many faces of women and children — like the victims of both Boko Haram and ISIS — at the displaced camps I worked in during the Nigerian-Biafra War. These experiences left a permanent impression on me. I then decided to get involved in the alleviation of these dehumanizing situations: I responded to the problem by moving to Elele neighborhood and built a conflict resolution center where the affected victims were able to be heard, validated, reconciled and then healed.

When people came to realize the effectiveness of this type of conflict resolution, they started bringing many different cases to be resolved in our center for Peace Justice and Reconciliation.

Regular people can contribute to this goal through practicing the philosophy of mmadi and making it a way of life and being able to volunteer in the re-orientation process. For example: promoting the philosophy of mmadi as the good that is, in school curriculums, colleges and universities, orientation conferences, workshops, workplaces, offices, among governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, companies and other walks of life.