Nigeria’s next government needs to have the political will to act decisively against the Boko Haram extremist group, said Pastor Esther Abimiku Ibanga ahead of the country’s March 28 presidential election. Ibanga, a civil society leader from northern Nigeria’s Plateau state, was recently awarded the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize, which honors significant contributions to inter-religious cooperation, for her efforts to promote women’s empowerment and peace.

Pastor Ibanga and Susie Hayward

Pastor Ibanga, a Christian, is the founder and president of the Women Without Walls Initiative, which brings together women from diverse religions and ethnicities to advocate for peace. Ibanga and the initiative have pressured the government of Nigeria to take a more committed, effective and proactive approach to combatting Boko Haram. They also coordinate with police services to improve community security and work with youth to help them resist extremist influences.

In this interview with Susan Hayward, the interim director of USIP’s Religion and Peacebuilding center, Ibanga says religious leaders should “step out into the dark arenas” where extremism thrives. She also discusses the challenges facing female clergy, why engaging with young people is the greatest part of her ministry, the top priorities for Nigeria’s next government, and what she has learned from other women leaders who are also working to counter violent extremism.

Ibanga has participated in USIP’s Women Preventing Extremist Violence project for the last two years, and was at the institute as part of a three-day symposium for the program in March.

Related Publications

Nigeria’s Powerful Governors Eye Roots of Boko Haram

Nigeria’s Powerful Governors Eye Roots of Boko Haram

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

By: USIP Staff

Governors from northern Nigeria, where the U.S. military is helping quell the Boko Haram militant group, will convene at the U.S. Institute of Peace for the second time this October to agree on civilian actions they can take to address the root causes of violent extremism and help ensure that efforts to stabilize this vital region will stick. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, a USIP senior advisor helping organize the gathering, said Nigerian governors are some of the m...

Violent Extremism; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Religion; Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Women, Religion and Peacebuilding

Women, Religion and Peacebuilding

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

By: Susan Hayward ; Katherine Marshall; editors

Women, Religion, and Peacebuilding: Illuminating the Unseen examines the obstacles and opportunities that women religious peacebuilders face as they navigate both the complex conflicts they are seeking to resolve and the power dynamics in the insti­tutions they must deal with in order to accomplish their goals.

Gender; Religion

Religion and Conflict in Nigeria

Religion and Conflict in Nigeria

Friday, January 30, 2015

By: John Paden

Nigeria—its vast population evenly split between Muslim and Christian—is counting down to another presidential election, scheduled for February 2015. This report raises a number of questions about the relationship of religious identity and internal conflict and the consequences of a polarized election. Do religious symbols exacerbate or mitigate conflict, especially during an electoral season? What are the interfaith efforts to ameliorate or mitigate ethno-religious conflict? What are the con...

Violent Extremism; Religion; Electoral Violence

View All Publications