Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

05. January 2012

Esther and Khadija - Xenia © Frauen ohne Grenzen

Esther Ibanga and Khadija Hawaja, Nigeria

SAVE film: Nigerian Women Stand Up to Violent Extremism

A message from SAVE sisters Esther Ibanga and Khadija Hawaja

Nigeria has entered the year 2012 with a worrying state of emergency due to the terrifying Christmas-day attacks on churches, which resulted in the death of at least 50 people. 

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks and recently sent out an ultimatum to all Christians living in the predominantly Muslim North, asking them to leave. It is believed that thousands of people have already fled their homes in Maiduguri, Borno State and other areas targeted by the terrorist group, whose leaders wish to form an Islamic state based on Sharia law. 

Since the attacks, a hundred of protesters gathered in the Northern city of Kano, to contest the rising prices of fuel. The protests quickly turned violent as Nigerian police interfered. It is believed that hundreds of protesters have been injured and many arrested. 

Christian community leader Esther Ibanga and Muslim religious leader Khadija Hawaja, who together founded the Women Without Walls Initiative (WWWI), an organization working towards unity and peace in Nigeria, have generously shared a common statement with Women without Borders/SAVE concerning recent developments in their country: 

“The events that are happening in our country are very unfortunate and saddening. The issues are quite complex and need more clarification. It is very true that we are going through a lot of challenges, especially on the security level, and the uncertainties are quite alarming for both Christians and Muslims. 

The Boko Haram tragedy is what many of us Nigerians can’t seem to grasp nor understand. The fact that the group has repeatedly announced that it is pro-Sharia and that they are bent on doing all they can to change Nigeria into an Islamic State is a thing of great concern to us all. 

The killings and restrictions are what we believe the government of Nigeria should bring to a halt. Our government owes us the duty to protect our lives and property especially during these times of crisis. This is the greatest challenge that Goodluck Jonathan’s government is facing at the moment, and we believe this is why he has recently declared a state of emergency. 

Coming to us on the other hand, as women, civil society leaders and religious leaders, we have intensified our efforts to bridge the gap between the two communities by engaging all the major stake holders, especially the youth, and encouraging them to remain peaceful and opt for negotiation instead of hostility. 

We have jointly appeared, as Christian and Muslim women united, in a press conference aimed at publicly condemning the senseless killings, as well as encouraging the two contending groups to embrace dialogue as a means of resolving issues with one another rather than resorting to violence. 

We both strongly condemn the brutal bombings that occurred on Christmas day. We are totally against the killing of innocent people for whatever reason. And so, as far as we are concerned, and as the Women Without Walls Initiative, this act of violence stands condemned! The human life is sacred and inviolable! No person has the right to act in such an inhumane manner. Religion, whether Islam or Christianity, respects life. Therefore these acts put a question mark on the persons who have little or no regard for life and yet claim to adhere to these Faiths. 

We sympathize with all those who were affected by the bombings and we send our deepest respects to the families of those who lost their loved ones. We pray God to give them the fortitude to bear the loss. We hope that Nigerians won’t give in to these calls for division that are taking over our country and stay united. 

Regards from Nigeria, 

Esther Ibanga & Khadija Hawaja“


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