With widespread violence plaguing Nigeria, Catholic religious sisters in the country have united in the name of peace to counter the mounting conflicts.
“The news of murders, massacres, kidnappings, lootings, trafficking in human beings and the actions of Boko Haram are staggeringly frequent and have even increased in recent times,” said Sister Bibiana Emenaha, coordinator for the Committee for Women’s Dignity Support, according to Vatican Insider.
“That’s why NCWR [National Conference of Religious Women] decided to take to the streets and, in addition to asking God for support, to gather women and men of good will to stop this worrying state of things,” Sister Emenaha continued.
On Feb. 14, the Nigerian religious sisters hosted a national day of prayer and fasting, where hundreds across the country united to pray for peace. This event was hosted by the Nigeria Conference of Women Religious and the African Faith & Justice Network.
This prayer and fasting imitative was only the beginning. The sisters additionally began to actively urge the government to create programs that would combat violence and work towards building bridges of peace within the communities.
“We are asking for greater security and protection of life and property,” said Sister Emenaha, noting that they are particularly requesting ways that the government could “stop the bloodshed as soon as possible.”
The sisters, who are members of the NCWR, have also jumpstarted a number of initiatives to aid the victims of violence within Nigeria, including a rehab shelter for survivors of human trafficking. This facility, located in Benin City, offers legal, psychological, spiritual and material support to women and girls who have been affected by trafficking and human slavery.
The program also offers educational campaigns on trafficking to schools, churches, media, and local communities. The sisters have so far seen tremendous support for their efforts and have been able to reintegrate around 380 individuals.
Additionally, the sisters have created an inter-religious program which unites people of all faiths to combat the staggering violence within the country.
“Throughout the year, we organize seminars, meetings and conferences attended by women of other faiths and confessions, and their presence is an added value in achieving our goals,” Emenaha said.
The violence within Nigeria stems from a number of different sources, including clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
This particular conflict has been mounting over the years, and involves primarily the Fulani and Tiv ethnic groups, although a number of other groups have been affected by its reach.
The fight for the land has also escalated with the growing drought, which has claimed the lives of over 3,000 people and caused more than 65,000 to leave their homes.
Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group, is another source of terrorism within the nation, and which has been responsible for a number of the kidnappings and bloodshed that has recently taken place in Nigeria.
Emenaha noted that the nuns’ prayers and actions have been the result of “concern for the increased violent clashes between communities, particularly among herdsmen and farmers, for the senseless killings and unbridled destruction of human lives, for the incessant kidnappings and violence against women and girls.”
It is their hope that through prayer and action, they may help bring an end to the destruction and restore a respect for human dignity within Nigeria.
“We are convinced that God listens to the cry of his children who turn to him desperately.”