Raising awareness and solutions on Capitol Hill for the crisis in Nigeria

Church of the Brethren Newsline
July 20, 2017

The congressional briefing on northeast Nigeria, with Office of Public Witness director Nate Hosler at the podium. The panel included Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Global Mission and Service leadership. Photo courtesy of Office of Public Witness.

by Emerson Goering

One week after attending the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., on July 10 leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) attended several meetings in Washington, D.C., organized by the denomination’s Office of Public Witness.

Meetings included conversations with the US Institute of Peace, US Department of State, and 21st Century Wilberforce, a partner in work on Nigeria focusing on international religious freedom. EYN members were able to share extensively on their experiences during the years of crisis in their country, and advocate for an appropriate response from US leaders.

The following day, the Office of Public Witness along with the Nigeria Working Group organized a briefing on the crisis in Nigeria. The event targeted policy makers and their staff members to provide knowledge on local solutions, US policy, and interfaith organizing. A variety of congressional offices attended the briefing, representing 12 House representatives and five Senate offices, as well as many humanitarian and advocacy groups.

Panelists included Roy Winter, associate executive Director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, and speakers from Search for Common Ground, Oxfam International, and Mennonite Central Committee. The briefing was standing room only, in a room intended for 40 people. Held in the Russell Senate Building, the briefing was attended by at least 64 people who officially signed in.

The continued outreach to congressional offices through meetings and briefings increases the visibility of the Nigerian crisis, and brings solutions to the attention of policymakers. The Office of Public Witness convenes the Nigeria Working Group, a combination of humanitarian and advocacy groups and faith groups, which keeps this work in motion in the nation’s capital. These efforts supplement and support the ongoing work of the Nigerian Crisis Response in addressing the food shortages, displacement by Boko Haram, and peacemaking in Nigeria.

A summary of the key points made by the panelists at the briefing can be found below. The continued dialogue on these key points is critical to get legislators active on such a vital issue. Further information about the Nigeria Crisis Response, which is a joint effort of EYN and the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, can be found at www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis . For more information about the ministry of the Office of Public Witness, go to www.brethren.org/publicwitness .

Nigerian Brethren leaders and members with Office of Public Witness director Nate Hosler, in Washington, D.C., following the 2017 Annual Conference. Photo courtesy of Office of Public Witness.

Responding to a Food Crisis and insecurity: Northeast Nigerian Possibilities

Recent attention to emerging famines is encouraging, but increased capacity, access, and funding mechanisms are essential.

Ongoing displacement and continued violence in northeast Nigeria and lack of access to communities and displaced persons has resulted in a food crisis and famine, alongside a wider humanitarian crisis. Some 14 million people in the 6 most-affected states are currently in dire need of humanitarian assistance, with 8.5 million of these cases directly related to the Boko Haram conflict–the main driver of hunger and malnutrition in the region.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandiat this February called upon the international community to “ensure a principled and suitable approach in the search for solutions.”

It is critical to address the socio-economic factors driving hunger and insecurity in northeast Nigeria, including social exclusion, inequality, marginalization of some groups, tension and violence within and between groups, as well as the critical needs of the displaced: nutrition, food, shelter, health, education, protection, water, and sanitation.

— Emerson Goering is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker serving with the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.

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