Poverty, not Islam, is the enemy, Niger peacemaker says
Life of prayer and love of Jesus Christ works better than confrontation
Eleven international peacemakers from around the world visited congregations, presbyteries and colleges of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 27-Oct. 21. They shared their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Bolivia, Colombia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Jamaica, Madagascar, Niger, Northern Ireland, South Sudan and Syria. The International Peacemaker program is sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. The Rev. Sani Nomaou as served since 2010 as president of the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger (ECRN). With a membership of about 8,000, the ECRN is the largest Christian denomination in a country that is 98 percent Muslim. As a prominent Christian leader, Nomaou is often a key voice the national dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Niger. During his international peacemaker itineration, Nomaou ― accompanied by the Rev. Josh Heikkila, the PC(USA)’s regional liaison for West Aftrica ― visited the presbyteries of the James, Twin Cities Area and Albany, as well as Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis.
What is the situation in your country that you addressed?
In the Gospel of John chapter 14 Jesus Christ gives us his peace. The peace of God doesn’t depend on the people or their popularity or on our enemy. Sometimes we look on Muslims as our enemy, but they are not the enemy. Poverty and its causes are the enemy.
How are the faith communities addressing this situation?
Most people in Niger live on about $1 a day. We try to address this situation through schools, clinics and development programs like deep-water wells. The illiteracy rate in Niger is 70 percent and 47 percent of the people don’t have access to clean water. We share the gospel through our schools ― students learn to read by using the Bible. We train pastors for our churches and we educate our children. With our Muslim sisters and brothers, the challenge is not confrontation. The challenge is to invite them into Christian community through a life of prayer and love.
What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
We need to understand Muslims and what they believe and what we believe as Christians. That’s the only way to understanding.
What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians? We need to be together to help our society.