The meditation speaker at this year’s World Day of Prayer service in Elizabethtown is someone with great personal experience in helping victims of organized violence.
Rebecca Dali, who is originally from Nigeria, was awarded the prestigious Sergio Viera de Mello Foundation award last year for her work helping women and orphans abducted by Boko Haram militants reintegrate into their home communities. Boko Haram, a jihadist group trying to establish Sharia law, started an armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria in 2009.
The service is at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 2, at the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, 777 S. Mount Joy St., Elizabethtown. Four churches take turns hosting Elizabethtown’s service; the others are Christ Church United Church of Christ, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and St. Peter Catholic Church. There is no admission charge, but a free-will offering will be taken. The service also features special music by vocalists Amy Yovanovich and Joshe Tindall; bell tree soloist Ron Bellamy and the church’s Memorial Bells, alson with a dramatic reading of the creation story from the book of Genesis by Gene and Barbara Ellis.
Dali had already been working to help Nigeria long before the Boko Haram crisis. She started a nonprofit group, the Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative, in 1989. The group aids widows and orphans caught in violent siutations.
But the Boko Haram insurgency made the already bad situation far worse. Many people were displaced from their homes, including Dali herself.
“We had to run for our life,” Dali said; the displaced had to travel more than 300 miles to get to safety.
Thankfully, she was able to get help from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“They came to where I was,” Dali said; with millions of dollars in help, water, sanitation and hygiene services were available. She distributed food along with many non-food items like mattresses, blankets and cooking utensils. Dali said she was able to distribute food and other aid to more than 1 million people.
Later, her group trained more than 300 widows with marketable skills including computer work, knitting, sewing and making liquid soap. Dali explained that these widows needed to learn these skills because they had been accustomed to their husbands providing for them.
Some victims of rape by Boko Haram have children as a result and were rejected by their communities. Dali said her group is working to get those children into a school so they will have a future.
But that will take money to accomplish, something that is lacking.
“This is only a dream. It is a big dream with no money,” Dali said.