Note: The Christian-Muslim Studies Network aims to advance academic scholarship and improve public engagement with the scriptural, theological, political, and sociological aspects of Christian-Muslim relations. This post is one of a series that illustrates how postgraduate students are engaging with the Christian-Muslim Studies Network’s academic opportunities in Edinburgh.
The Christian-Muslim Studies Network location in Edinburgh, a diverse European capital, allows Emmanuel Ossai, a Nigerian PhD student, to benefit from the scholarship of many traditions.
As a first-year PhD student in Christian-Muslim Relations and Islamic Studies, Mr Ossai is particularly interested in studies of places where Christians and Muslims coexist. His studies center on central and northern Nigeria, where he examines the causes of communal conflict between Muslims and Christians.
He does so through the lens of a ‘zone of peace’, which seeks to understand how certain communities can choose to maintain harmony in the midst of conflict.
Life in Edinburgh
As a scholar in the field of peace and conflict, he has appreciated the tolerant culture of Edinburgh.
‘In Edinburgh, there is a very high level of respect for people regardless of race or colour or creed’, he noted. ‘People are very kind here because they want to help me to pursue my dreams rather than requiring something back’.
He has made adjustments to live in Scotland. The friendly, community-centered attitudes he grew up in are foreign to British society, and the cold, damp weather alarmed him at first.
‘You’ll find it amazing that I’m beginning to like that weather’, Mr Ossai said. ‘I think the secret here is just to wear more layers and a good jacket’.
A path to Christian-Muslim Studies
Although he is a native Nigerian, this is not the first time that Mr Ossai has travelled to the United Kingdom for his studies. He was selected to receive a Commonwealth Scholarship and travelled to Liverpool, where he obtained an MA in Peace Studies from Liverpool Hope University. While in England, he contacted Dr Joshua Ralston, Lecturer in Christian-Muslim Relations at the School of Divinity and Director of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network. Mr Ossai decided to bring his interest in the role that religion can play in conflict to the University of Edinburgh and its focus on Christian-Muslim relations.
This continued an interest that had compelled him from his undergraduate studies. He had graduated from the University of Nigeria in 2014, after studying Religious Studies. His studies brought to him to a new understanding of the multicultural environment he was part of in Nigeria.
‘Nigeria is hugely diverse, and because of my studies in religion I understand that religion is part of this diversity’, he said.
To explore this dynamic, Mr Ossai will travel to Nigeria to conduct fieldwork, with the guidance of Dr Ralston and Rev Dr Leah Robinson, Lecturer in Pastoral and Practical Theology at the School of Divinity. This approach, he said, allows him to benefit from the best scholarship and resources in both Nigeria and the West.
He intends to contribute what he discovers to scholarship at large, and to Nigeria. He has taught already as an assistant lecturer at the University of Nigeria, where he plans to return after he completes his PhD.
‘I can contribute when I get home to Nigeria, perhaps in politics, and I can contribute to the knowledge we have on conflict, politics, inter-religious studies, and peace’, Mr Ossai said. ‘I hope that when I finish this I can go back and see what I can do for my people’.