Members of WIC in attendance at a recent executive meeting (photo courtesy of WIC Facebook page)
‘Women of Faith, Mothers of a Culture of Peace’
When on mission in Kaduna, the now Irish Provincial leader of the OLA, Sr Kathleen McGarvey, founded the Women’s Interfaith Council in 2010 with the vision to have “a society where Muslims and Christians live together in peace, where the rights of women are respected, and where women and youths are protagonists of peaceful coexistence and development”. She was very aware of the ruptured and often violently destructive relations between peoples in the name of religion, and the fact that religion and culture often represent the greatest obstacles to the social and human development of women. She was also very much aware that women are most visible by their absence in the practice of official or formal interreligious dialogue, globally. She presented her proposal to Christian and Muslim women leaders in Kaduna, and together they established and developed the Women’s Interfaith Council (WIC) which is officially registered as the Interfaith Forum of Muslim and Christian Women’s Association, to promote women’s active engagement in the promotion of peaceful interreligious coexistence. Their motto is ‘Women of Faith, Mothers of a Culture of Peace’ and they are convinced of the transformative influence women can have, on not only their families but on society as a whole. While Sr Kathleen led the organisation as General Coordinator, Mrs Comfort Fearon (Anglican Communion) and Hajiya Amina Kazaure were the Christian and Muslim Coordinators. Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, now deceased, was an important and valuable promoter and supporter in those early days.
Today WIC is made up of 23 Christian and Muslim women’s associations, which together have thousands of members. These represent all the major Christian denominations and the major Muslim organizations and mosques in Kaduna. Sr Veronica Onyeanisi OLA took over as Executive Director in 2019, replacing Sr Anne Falola OLA, who had worked there in this same position from 2015. Mrs Elisabeth Abuk is the Christian Coordinator and Hajiya Daharatu Ahmed Aliyu is the Muslim Coordinator.
The Aachen Peace Prize was established in 1988 and is awarded to people who work to create peace and understanding between different peoples. It is supported by an association consisting of more than 50 different religious, political, trade union and social groups, not only locally but also regionally and nationally, along with some 350 private individuals.
The Women’s Interfaith Council was nominated for the prize by Bettina Tiburzy of Missio. Bettina, and Missio photographer, Hartmut Schwarzbach, visited Kaduna at the end of 2019, and had this to say, “Today more than 12000 women belong to the peace initiative, women who no longer want to be victims, women who are working together for peace, women who want their voices heard. ABSOLUTELY COURAGEOUS WOMEN!!!”
WIC Exco meeting 2021 (image courtesy of WIC Facebook page)
“With this award we want to encourage all women of the Women’s Interfaith Council and strengthen the image of the initiative within Nigeria and internationally”, says Lea Heuser, award spokesperson. “The fate and courageous actions of the many women who, despite experiencing violence, tirelessly campaign for a peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims, is seen and valued.”
Visit the WIC website here: http://www.womeninterfaithcouncil.org/
Read more about: the story of the founding of the Women’s Interfaith Council
Visit the Misio website: Passion for Peace