The story of the founding of the Women’s Interfaith Council
Mission Month is a time when we reflect on our call to be of service to others in our world. Whether as a Religious or a lay person, each one of us is called to go out and make our world a better place. In the process we can inspire others. When this happens, great things are possible.
The Women’s Interfaith Council (WIC) – a forum of Muslim and Christian women’s associations – was founded in May 2010 and it continues to go from strength to strength. Ahead of their gathering at the end of September 2017, the WIC honoured the contribution of founding member, Sr. Kathleen McGarvey.
Sr. Kathleen, who recently celebrated her Silver Jubilee and 25 years of missionary service, wished to become a lay missionary after she finished college in the last 1980’s. Soon after, she decided to join as the OLAs which in her own words ‘gave peace to my heart’.
Through her early missionary experiences in Nigeria and her subsequent studies in Rome, Sr. Kathleen developed a keen interest in different faiths and the role of women as peacemakers. A seed had thus been sown.
The WIC, also known as the Interfaith Forum of Muslim and Christian Women’s Association, was set-up to enable women of faith associations work together to build peace and stability in Kaduna, Nigeria by addressing conflict issues and matters of concern to women with the primary focus on conflict, poverty, insecurity and vulnerability.
All the women who attend the WIC are the leaders of faith groups at diocesan or state level.
The WIC website lists 15 groups which are under the WIC interfaith umbrella. They include FOMWAN (Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria, Kaduna State Chapter), Zumantar Mata, Baptist Women’s Missionary Union (WMU), Women’s Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), NASFAT Women’s Wing (Kaduna State), Catholic Women’s Organisation (Archdiocese of Kaduna) and Women in Da’wah (Kaduna State).
The WIC reaches out to key stakeholders, such as male religious and traditional and political leaders, about the need for interreligious dialogue and women’s role in this.
It also reaches out to society at large to emphasise the need to collaborate as people of faith.
The group has held many training workshops on conflict transformation and peace building for female faith leaders. A recent workshop, sponsored by the OLA Province of Ireland, focused on the role of women in preventing children and community members becoming radicalized. The event newsletter noted that ‘women act as peace builders and early warning reporters within a family unit and in the wider community setting’. Present at the workshop were 48 women leaders representing 16 Christian and Muslim faith groups.
All the workshops include guidelines on how to ‘step-down’ the training to the members of their respective faith groups.
The purpose of WIC truly crystallized in recent years.
According to the their Facebook page, after a church bombing in 2012 and some other polarizing tragedies, WIC held a very moving interfaith solidarity prayer with about two hundred women from both faiths. Solidarity visits were paid to ‘the hospitals and to some refugee camps of persons who had been injured and/or displaced as a result of the post-election conflict and/or the bomb blast’.
Actions such as these have served to strengthen the resolve of women, leaders and members of faith groups, to work together and do what they can to bring reconciliation and peace to Kaduna.
At regular intervals and times of crisis, the WIC issues communiqués which receive widespread attention in both local and national media.
A statement to coincide with the conclusion of the September 2017 WIC gathering and to mark Nigeria’s Independence Day encouraged all citizens of Nigeria to work towards peace. The statement was signed by Sr. Anne Falola, OLA (appointed as WIC Executive Director last February), Hajiya Amina Kazaure, General Co-ordinator, Mrs Elizabeth Abuk, Christian Co-ordinator and Hajiya Daharatu Ahmed Aliyu, Muslim Coordinator.
The WIC website states that the interfaith work must be continued and ‘the vision and resolve which the women now share must be properly channelled so as to have an even stronger and more lasting influence over our society. Since the foundation has been laid, there is great possibility of building upon it and extending its influence so as to make women’s voice and joint commitment more effective and more concrete.’
Even though Sr. Kathleen returned to Ireland in 2013 to answer another ‘missionary calling’, the fragile mustard seed sown in Kaduna in 2010 has blossomed to become something special. Sr. Kathleen saw a need and answered the call to make the world a better place. In the process, the women of Kaduna were inspired. Great things are now possible and all because a call to mission was answered.