The Christian Pastor and Muslim Community Leader Standing for Peace
Esther Ibanga and Khadija Hawaja are promoting dialogue between Muslim and Christian women in northern Nigeria.
Mike Wooldridge meets Esther Ibanga and Khadija Hawaja, a Christian pastor and a Muslim community leader. Both are from the city of Jos in Northern Nigeria, a part of the country that has been riven by sectarian strife for many years. When Esther and Khadija first met, neither was prepared to listen to the other - the mutual prejudice of their respective communities was running far too deep. Yet eventually they did talk - and overcame their own misgivings to stand together for peace and against politicians seeking to sow sectarian division for their own gain. They are now co-operating on the Women Without Walls Initiative, an NGO that promotes dialogue between Muslim and Christian women in Northern Nigeria and has received no fewer than 13 international awards for its outstanding work.
Their choice has not been an easy one: there are vested interests that do not want to see them making peace, and they are also in the firing line of Boko Haram. Yet, they say, their faith carries them through. “God is the one who protects me”, says Esther. For Khadija, her work with Esther has been a great eye-opener. “I began to understand that I was not alone in my pain, and so I was able to understand that Christians are victims too.”
(Photo: Esther Ibanga speaks during the 7th Annual Women in the World Summit 2016, New York. Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
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