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Nigerien peacemaker balances church and government work

Isaaka Moussa among group visiting the US this fall

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE –  Isaaka Moussa has a tough job. He finds himself walking a tightrope, balancing his work in justice and human rights with prevention of conflicts or peacebuilding efforts between Christian and Muslim groups in Niger.

Moussa is among nearly a dozen speakers from around the world who will be visiting Presbyterian churches and synods in the United States this fall as part of the 2016 Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.

Isaaka Moussa

Isaaka Moussa

“As honorable justices, we are in charge of controlling the conformity of the laws to the constitution of the country, validating the presidential and parliamentary elections, and establishing the elected authorities in their functions,” said Moussa. “I serve as secretary for global partnerships of the Evangelical Church in Niger (EERN) and I take part in all of the decisions made regarding the spreading of the gospel in the country.”

Prior to his current responsibilities, he was the high officer in charge of writing Niger’s reports on human rights implementation for the United Nations and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. In the church, he was national youth leader for 10 years and elder in his local church. He is currently the chairperson of the “Prison Fellowship Internal” branch of Niger.

One of Moussa’s biggest challenges is his work with the justice system—in particular, dealing with national elections. He says tense relations between all of the stakeholders make the work difficult.

“Having to be the one validating the elections and the rulers’ acts is very tough and brings with it a tremendous amount of pressure,” he said, “particularly in Africa where elections used to be times of violence against politicians and authorities in charge of the electoral process.”

In church, he says, challenges revolve around the situations that minorities face.

“Christians are said to be less than 1 percent of Niger’s population. Leading a church that is spreading the gospel in a heavily Muslim-dominant country is not easy,” Moussa said. “The church is so small and lacks the means to move fast while the Islamic extremism is growing more and more.”

“In January 2015, we faced an experience we had never faced before when more than 100 churches and Christian properties were heavily damaged or destroyed by fire,” he said. “It is a big challenge to rebuild the relationships broken between Christians and Muslims.”

But despite the conflicts, Moussa says he finds his work rewarding, especially in resolving major issues such as elections or the elimination of bad laws. During his visit to the United States, Moussa says, he will be sharing what EERN and the global church in Niger are doing to reestablish links between the two faiths and plans for evangelism in the country over the next several years.

“My main expectation is to reintroduce Niger to US churches and presbyteries during my visit this fall,” he said. “I hope we can find some areas where partnerships can be developed for the growth of the church in our country.”

Other speakers will be coming from Colombia, Cuba, Ghana, Hungary, Iran, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, and Syria.

“These visits have informed Presbyterians, opened hearts and minds, touched lives, established relationships, and inspired new ministries,” said Carl Horton, coordinator for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “By sharing stories of their work and witness, they help us to understand peace and justice concerns around the world and provide insights that can inspire us to greater faithfulness.”

Moussa finds the Peacemaking Program to be a valuable partner in his work. “For a promoter of human rights and a minority church leader, being part of such a program is a great opportunity to reinforce my capacities for better serving my community and country.”

For more information about this year’s peacemakers, click here.

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