In various parts of the world Christians experience persecution and suffering at the hands of governments that restrict religious freedom, and as a result of strained relationships between differing faith communities. One way to address these difficulties is to foster work in the area of interfaith relations, and the WMC Social Justice Committee has taken on this topic as a current emphasis.
In February, Kimberly Reisman, SJC Chair, traveled to Abuja, Nigeria to learn more about the interfaith work being done by the Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association (www.nifaaonline.org), an organization led by Bishop Sunday Ndukwo Onuoha of the Methodist Church Nigeria. NIFAA promotes interfaith understanding by providing a means of cooperative effort to address common public problems, specifically related to poverty and disease. Though Bishop Onuoha is the Executive Director of NIFAA, the organization has two Co-Chairs, His Eminence, Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto, and His Grace, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, President, Christian Association of Nigeria.
One of NIFAA’s major ongoing projects is Faiths United for Health, which provides a toolkit for faith leaders in the fight against malaria. Describing the effort, Bishop Onuoha writes, “Malaria kills people of all religions, and the mosquito belongs to every religion. The mosquito worships with Muslims on Friday and goes to the church on Sunday…Through NIFAA’s campaign, we are building the bridges of unity to save our people from this one identifiable killer.”
Faiths United for Health is involved in the distribution of insecticide treated nets and house-to-house visitation and education, as well as creating plans for faith-based communication and education, which include sermon starters for both Muslim and Christian faith leaders. Additionally, the Faiths United for Health campaign provides resources to facilitate group discussions around the subject of malaria both within and beyond individual faith communities and trains Faith Community Health Volunteers to monitor net ownership, usage, and education.
Nigeria accounts for one quarter of all malaria cases in sub-Saharan Africa, with approximately 70-110 million cases each year. About 300,000 Nigerians die of malaria every year. The challenge of fighting this deadly disease provides common ground on which people of all faiths can stand. NIFAA is providing a wonderful model for interfaith cooperation through which increased understanding can come about. If you would like to come alongside NIFAA in its efforts, please contact Kimberly Reisman for more information.
Christian Muslim Unity Foundation
NIFAA is also mentoring young adults as they come together in their own efforts to promote interfaith understanding. Recently, Bishop Sunday Ohuoha and Kimberly Reisman met with members of the Christian Muslim Unity Foundation to share ideas and the possibility of partnership in their work to foster stronger interfaith relationships in Nigeria.
West Africa Theological Seminary
During a recent visit to Lagos, Nigeria, Kimberly Reisman, chair of the WMC Social Justice Committee, preached at the Friday chapel service at West Africa Theological Seminary (WATS), an ecumenical seminary serving the Wesleyan family. In addition to the chapel service, Kim was able to participate in a Doctor of Ministry cohort session on the topic of conflict resolution. Led by Dr. John Brown of Lawna Theological Seminary in Jos, the cohort is focused on developing strategies to address situations violent conflict and promote reconciliation.
Gwaten Conference United Methodist Women’s Conference – Bambuka, Nigeria
The United Methodist Women of the Gwaten Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in Nigeria held their annual women’s conference in Bambuka in February. Kimberly Reisman, WMC Social Justice Committee Chair was the keynote speaker for the five-day event. Focusing on the theme, Seek Peace, Pursue It! (1 Peter 3:11), over 15,000 women gathered to celebrate, learn and fellowship together.