Esther Ibanga

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Esther Ibanga is a Christian pastor and interfaith peace activist in a highly volatile state in central Nigeria. In the wake of incessant ethno-religious conflicts that have rocked Plateau State since 1994, Pastor Ibanga has become a leader of a strong coalition of diverse women’s groups united in their desire for peace. Following the “100,000 Women March” of Christian women, which she organized to protest the 2010 massacre of 530 women and children in a village three miles from her home, local Muslim women organized a similar demonstration, yet the killing continued.

Ibanga decided to reach out to a female Muslim leader. Reflecting back, she says, “Society has always placed boundaries on us. But, you know, these boundaries are man-made. Cross the line; you just might be surprised.” The Muslim colleague joined Ibanga’s creative approach to conflict resolution, which is now known as the Women without Walls Initiative.

It is the first organization in the state to include leaders from all tribes and religions. These individuals act as entry points for advocacy and bridge-building, particularly among religious, youth, and community leaders. Having identified poverty and marginalization as frequent sources of conflict, Women without Walls is addressing material needs in both Christian and Muslim communities. In addition, the organization offers women skills training in peace mediation and negotiation, preventing extremist violence, and community policing.

Ibanga, who was spurred by the bloodshed in her region to give up a 16-year career with the Central Bank to focus full time on ministry, is a frequent speaker in Nigeria and abroad on conflict resolution and countering violent extremism.

Last Updated: October 2015