This World Mission Sunday, get inspired by women reaching out across religious divides to heal their community.
Elizabeth is the Christian Coordinator of the Women’s Interfaith Council (WIC) in Kaduna, northern Nigeria. The initiative is supported by Missio and features in our World Mission Sunday campaign this year. Here Elizabeth shares how she got involved in the Council and the vital work it does in a divided community:
Joining the council
‘I first encountered the Women’s Interfaith Council in 2006. The person in charge then was Sister Kathleen and she was looking to bring together women’s groups, both Muslims and Christians. At the time I was working with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Sister Kathleen met me and explained her idea.
‘It was very, very difficult, because of the situation we found ourselves in: crisis, fighting, killing in both south and north Kaduna. And here she was coming with an idea of women coming together to talk about peace.
‘The then-chair of CAN refused to compromise because she felt there was no need. We felt Sr Kathleen was supporting the Muslims. Many of the Christian women were very angry, because we had seen the number of Christians killed’.
Elizabeth is part of a mission to bring peace and love in the midst of unimaginable trauma and conflict. On World Mission Sunday please help us support projects like the Women’s Interfaith Council>>
Learning to trust
‘Sr Kathleen said: “Elizabeth, you are talking about the Christians, but do you know how many Muslims are also killed? Are they not human beings? These are gifts created by God. Why do we have to kill? We need to talk. We need to sit down to talk”. Sr Kathleen had seen the bodies; she knew the number of Muslims being killed.
‘All along, we had been trying to dodge her, because we did not want to do anything, no negotiating. We didn’t want to meet with these people. Oh, I thought, they are too bad. They are evil. They kill without even thinking.
‘But then I remembered what one Alhadji [Nigerian Muslim] did for my dad…
‘In 2000, my dad’s life was threatened. Violence was common in the area; many Muslims had been killed and a mob came for my dad, a Christian, in retaliation. They tried to get into his house, but his Muslim neighbour stopped them. In the end, he sacrificed his life. He said he would rather be killed, than for my dad to be killed. And that was how my dad was saved. And that gave me second thoughts.
‘It’s no mystery how we overcome; it is the grace of God. That is how my dad was saved, and I thank God for that. In 2007 I joined the Women’s Interfaith Council’.
Overcoming personal tragedy
‘Friday 14 March 2014 was market day in my sister’s village. That evening, people attacked the village. They were all killed: my younger sister, her husband and three of her children were burned to ashes.
‘I was not allowed to go to the village until the Sunday because it was tough, and security could not allow anybody. But when I got there, it was too late to do anything. It was just ashes.
‘As I came back on the Monday, I got a message from the Women’s Interfaith Council, inviting me for a meeting. I was very sad. I said: “No, I can never do this again. Hearing the story of one thousand people attack a village, attack a single village… I will not do this again”.
‘It took me time. God by my side, composed me and just asked me to go in. My intention was just to go in and say: “Look I am not for this meeting”. I said: “I am not staying, I just came from the village. I am going. I lost my younger sister with her husband and three children born to her, due to this crisis. There is no need to talk about peace again. Let’s forget it”.
‘It was then they had to talk to me, plead with me, comfort me, and console me. And I managed to stay for the meeting for a while.
‘And then before long, the news got round. Calls from left to right. Everybody was calling me; the Bishop, Sr Kathleen; a Sister from Lagos… everybody calling me through the week to comfort me.
‘But it took me time to actually reconcile with myself. My husband stood by me. He asked me to take heart, to continue; looking at the way the Catholic Church was supporting me; wanting me to talk to women.
‘It was not easy. It is not easy. But I thanked God. I accepted the will of God. And I continue with the job’.
Talking and working for peace
‘Today as I share with you, I talk about peace, and I negotiate peace. I thank God today. I am here. And I want to thank God for the support I am getting through the Women’s Interfaith Council.
‘It was a journey I didn’t want. I rejected it for over one year. But today I am here. And I am still talking, and I continue to work for peace. I have a passion. I love seeing a peaceful environment. I love seeing people being treated fairly. I want to see justice.
‘And that is it, I want to thank God I am here, working for peace. And I will continue to work for peace’.
World Mission Sunday is celebrated in every Catholic community in the world. It’s a moment of grace to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living in situations of poverty, violence and oppression. Every parish, school and community is invited to join this special event, and every penny, pound and prayer you give to Missio helps missionaries everywhere continue their work.