“The once happy community has become a gloomy one,” said Father Dushi Yohana, a Catholic priest who ministers in the Kaya community of Madagali local government area in northeast Nigeria. Kaya, predominantly a farming community, was invaded by Boko Haram in September 2014. The invasion, along with subsequent forced evacuations by the Nigerian military, have resulted in what now looks like a ghost town.
The displacement of farmers from their lands has also contributed to increased hunger. The food crisis has been compounded by a change in climate conditions affecting the pattern of rainfall in northeast Nigeria. As a result many farmers have not been able to sow the critical crops of maize, rice, peanuts and sorghum.
Communities such as Kaya suffer in other ways as well, as a result of their displacement. Many lack basic needs such as water and sanitation. People have lost their livelihoods. Children are not able to go to school. There have been outbreaks of preventable diseases. Many who have been able to return are traumatized and in need of psychosocial care.
Confronting social and economic injustice, in northeast Nigeria and around the world, is among the many responsibilities of the human family, irrespective of religion, race or background. Our Christian faith compels us to prioritize others and their needs above ours in a spirit of humility (Philippians 2:3).
In Nigeria, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) works in the areas of education, health, peacebuilding and community development by supporting local partner organizations at the grassroots level. For example, MCC partners with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nijeriya (Church of the Brethren – Nigeria) in psychosocial support initiatives in the northeast of Nigeria such as trauma healing workshops, training of facilitators and serving the needs of both the displaced and returnees.
Responding to needs in Nigeria requires the commitment of governments as well. The U.S. government’s effort in fighting global hunger and malnutrition are a form of diplomatic investment. It is also the morally right thing to do.
As Congress prepares the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, it is our duty to influence their decisions by asking them to compassionately support poverty-focused development assistance, including funding for peacebuilding, emergency food and nutrition assistance, and global health programs.
Economic resources are a gift from God. As we trust God’s unfailing benevolence, this should be translated into selfless generosity to others (James 1: 17). In the words of Micah 6:8, may we do justice to structures and systems of the global economy, love kindness through selfless generosity to people in need, and walk humbly with our God.
Charles Kwuelum is Legislative Associate for International Affairs in the MCC U.S. Washington office.
Peace on the Hill is a monthly column in PeaceSigns written by staff of the MCC Washington Office highlighting congressional developments and detailing ways the church can continue to be engaged in the work of peace and advocacy.