Photo above: Archbishop Ben Kwashi and Dr Gloria Kwashi (centre) are caring for over 70 children in their home.
‘The people who are most traumatised by this persecution are the orphans,’ said Archbishop Ben Kwashi in a message to Australian Anglicans earlier this year. Archbishop Kwashi from the Diocese of Jos in Nigeria and his wife Dr Gloria Kwashi have known persecution first hand, having experienced attempts on their lives and destruction of their property by Islamist militants. But they are most concerned about the way the devastating violence has affected the many children in their area who have found themselves orphaned and homeless.
Fifteen years ago Gloria Kwashi was so disturbed by the plight of the increasing number of widows, orphans, and vulnerable children, who had little or no shelter or food, no education and no money or facilities for health care, that she began taking children into her home to care for them. There are now over 70 children from the age of two years, living with the Bishop and his wife as their family. She has also established a school for them.
Zambiri School now educates over 400 primary and secondary students from disadvantaged backgrounds, all of whom receive free education, uniforms, food, and medical care. The school has been approved by the government as a centre for national examinations. Four cohorts of senior students have graduated, some of whom have gone on to tertiary education in college or university. Zambiri is planning to open a second campus to help meet the enormous needs in Jos. There will be a bakery and piggery associated with the new campus to help meet its running costs.
Archbishop Kwashi says that he has seen many of the children in his home and school grow, and heal, getting involved in sport and becoming wonderful kids. ‘Our prayer is that they will grow so wonderfully that they will hold no grudge but one day turn to be evangelists, to go to their persecutors,’ said Archbishop Kwashi.
In partnership with Anglican Aid, the Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn renewed its partnership with the Diocese of Jos in Nigeria at Synod in September, supporting Zambiri School, as well as providing food and shelter for Christians who have lost homes and livelihoods at the hands of Islamist militants. The Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn is also supporting the Diocese of Jos’ Christian Institute, which offers training in Theology or community health to prepare students to serve in Nigeria and beyond. ‘We thank you profoundly and profusely for all the support in the past and we urge you to do so even in the days ahead,’ said Archbishop Kwashi. ‘I am personally grateful for the friendship, for the fellowship that has brought us – so far and yet so close.’
While the persecution in Nigeria has brought great suffering, Archbishop Kwashi said that it has spurred Christians in Australia and around the world to pray for the church in Nigeria and he sees Christians under pressure not just surviving, but thriving in their faith. It has also given God’s people in Nigeria and beyond the opportunity to show his love. ‘What a joy to see the church responding to biblical injunctions of loving one another and caring for the poor, for widows and for the fatherless and helpless,’ he said.
If you would like to know more about supporting these projects, go to www.anglicanaid.org.au/ locations/nigeria or contact Rev Canon Patrick Cole by phoning 0438 490 023 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Patrick would be delighted to make himself available to speak in parishes about the diocesan partnership, and the pressing needs of our Anglican sisters and brothers in Nigeria. Archbishop Ben’s moving video message about supporting work with children will shortly be available on the Diocesan website, together with an electronic version of the pamphlet setting out the various projects the Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn is supporting in Jos, and how to give to them.