Shemma felt unsafe.
He had become a lawyer to help people. But everyday he saw his fellow believers being discriminated against, attacked, and marginalized and he did not know how to help them.
The police were against them, the government was against them, and they stood alone in their suffering.
Shemma lives in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram terrorists and Fulani Herdsmen brutally attack and kill Christians to forced them out of the region. Christians are attacked in their homes, while worshipping, while celebrating their holy days, and even on the soccer fields and in school. The government does not protect them and they are not allowed to defend themselves.
When we met Shemma, he was very discouraged. He joined a training to learn how to defend the freedom of conscience for all people. He didn’t just learn about his rights, he learned how to use them in the courts and in his community. It was something new.
When he returned home, he shared what he learned with his church, then at his work. One of his Muslim colleagues invited him to meet his chief. When they met, the chief was very eager to learn more. Shemma began to describe things in a different way that the chief would understand. He explained how these rights are for all people and benefit society in so many ways.
When he was done, the chief asked if there was anything he could do to help Shemma promote these ideas in their community. There was; Shemma shared about a church that was unable to build on its land.
The chief picked up his phone and called the policeman responsible for holding up the church’s permit to build. Immediately, the permit was released and the church could rebuild.
Shemma learned that he did not always have to fight for his rights in the courts. Often, by understanding the shared rights and benefits of those rights we all have in common, he could mitigate many of the challenges faced in his community.
He could build allies to help him defend his community.
The challenges across northern Nigeria are great. And still, Shemma needed more support.
That’s why Hardwired began to gather lawyers from across the region to work together across religious lines. It was the first time Muslim and Christian lawyers had ever worked together in Nigeria to address cases of religious freedom.
Together, these lawyers overcame their fears and misconceptions of one another, and they began to advocate for one another’s rights in the courts.
Now, Shemma is not alone.
Together, these networks of lawyers across northern Nigeria are building bridges, training others, defending one another, and turning the tide against the violence and divisions that surround them.
When you place a Defender of Freedom like Shemma into a community plagued with violence and discrimination against people of faith, you help them bring justice and peace to their community. You make their communities safer for people of faith to live and worship.