What has inspired you as you attended the WCC executive committee meeting?
Dr Onyemara: It was inspirational for me because this was my first time in a WCC executive committee meeting. I was representing the general secretary of ACT Alliance Rudelmar Buano de Faria. Again, I was inspired because the meeting took time to review situations in various regions including Nigeria. The theology of accompaniment was really helpful.
You are well-known for drawing the interest of young people and theologians to speak about issues such as HIV response. What is your secret to building this kind of collaboration?
Dr Onyemara: My secret is my passion for humanity. I like to identify with the suffering and the weak in society. I did applied theology in Birmingham and this is a stark case of applied theology and praxis. The work of the Christian Council of Nigeria also gives me the platform to be an advocate. We work on humanitarian issues a lot. So, this is the passion of the council and many people follow us in our programmes. We are happy with the support the WCC and other funding partners give us. With this support, we are able to bring them together from time to time. We also have strong youth and women’s wings of the council. So it is easy to beckon on them for support with the needed persons.
What are you most concerned about today in your country?
Dr Onyemara: We have a concern for peaceful co-existence. At the moment, Nigeria is experiencing crises of all sorts. Some are political, some are social, some religious and others economic. We have many internally displaced persons; the situation is not good at all. People cannot go to their farms anymore in some regions of the country. Kidnapping for ransom is still on the increase. There are out-of-school children in some regions as students and pupils are kidnap targets as well. In some places, the terrorists shut down the schools. In the Niger Delta, especially in Ogoni land, there is pollution of the environment and destruction of the aquatic life.This is seriously affecting livelihoods and escalating the level of food scarcity and exacerbating hunger and food crisis. Every part of the nation is experiencing one form of crisis or another. Climate change is leading to struggle for land and water and there is a daily struggle between farmers and herders. Because of these, it is not easy. It is a humanitarian crisis for us. We are looking for the best ways to handle it. I’m also happy that the WCC, in the executive committee, has a theology of accompaniment, an assurance that we are not alone, we are not abandoned. The WCC is with us. Our Lord Jesus Christ is with us. We are not abandoned on the journey. The WCC issued a statement to tell the world about what Nigeria is going through. We are also challenged to stand up and face our challenges together as a people. It is a pilgrimage and the different tribes and ethnicities must rise up and confront the issues.
Are you pleased with the media coverage drawn by the recent workshops on HIV and stigma?
Dr Onyemara: I am very happy with the level of media coverage. It is a lot of motivation for us to note that our work as a council has drawn attention from the press and we are very grateful. The Christian Council of Nigeria cannot do this alone without WCC support. The recent workshop launched the Christian Council of Nigeria to the public because WCC was willing to help to sponsor it. People living with HIV were highly encouraged as the Christian Council of Nigeria boldly spoke in their favour. The Christian Council of Nigeria called for implementation of anti-stigma laws about people living with HIV because it is not a death sentence. From the workshop, people who are HIV-positive can now live positive lifestyles with confidence and achieve their life-long objectives.