Embracing Peace in North East Nigeria

By Sister Franca Onyibor mshr  

Franca describes efforts to sow seeds of peace using the skills of Non-Violent Communication in North East Nigeria, where the Boko Haram conflict has been tearing communities apart.  She and her colleague, Duke, meet and listen to people on both sides:

   “ We are having amazing experiences with stories of pain and some joy too. So far we have worked with four different groups.  We have also been engaged with the initial work for restorative dialogue with a group of local Farmers and Fulani herdsmen – two groups that have been in conflict for many years. The local security guards (called vigilantes) have also been part of this initial dialogue. People have been killed on both sides and properties lost. As is unfortunately so common in these types of conflict, one side sees the other side as impossible – “they will not come, they will not talk”. And yet when we went to the other side we had barely finished explaining why we had come when they started to say, “whatever it is we will do it, we want peace!”  We expected ten for this gathering and over thirty turned up including young Fulani herdsmen. Even though I am the only woman present, the group desired peace so much that they were enthusiastically open to receive from me and to share with openness.

As we together explored ways forward for peace, many of the Fulani elders also expressed their deep desire that their children from henceforth would learn to read and write. I feel sad for many of the young men present who could neither read nor write. Though this place is located in the middle of nowhere, I have started praying  to Bishop Shanahan for nomadic school for these Fulani children and for many other Fulani children in Nigeria.  I believe with our dear Founder that this dream will one day come true.  Thank you for joining me in this dream and prayer for these precious children.

     “Nonviolence is a chosen, mindful approach to life that emerges from standing for love, courage, and truth”- Miki Kashtan, Little book of Courageous Living

” I am a member of a worldwide network for peace called, ‘Non Violent Communication’ (NVC). It was founded by Marshall Rosenberg; website is www.nvc.org.  I feel drawn to this path because it offers me concrete tools for transforming my own anger and hurt to grow towards an open hearted kindness and love towards myself and others. Today, NVC continues to nourish me as I try to respond to the call to contribute to sowing seeds of peace by bringing NVC to Nigeria. The unanimous response of those who have participated in my training programmes  is one of deep appreciation for NVC.

Fatima, a participant whose aunt was killed in a conflict, put it this way:
I came to this workshop with huge emotional pain. I leave with a lighter heart due to the deep listening I experienced. I am also learning how I can begin to create peace and harmony within myself and in my relationships. In fact, I see the potential NVC has to bring peace to Nigeria.”

The writer of this article, Sister Franca Onyibor, is a Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary from Nigeria.

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