Sister Janet Fearns FMDM describes the work of the Holy Childhood in a region dominated by Sharia law Search for Yelwa Yauri on Google Maps and the following message appears: “Your search for Yauri, Nigeria near Yelwa did not match any locations.” The mighty Google does not believe that there really is a town by the name of Yelwa Yauri. Yet visit Yelwa Yauri and people will be absolutely convinced that they are no figment of anybody’s imagination and that if their homes cannot be found on Google, then it is the fault of the internet giant, not of the villagers.
Yelwa Yauri is a large, sprawling town on the banks of the River Niger in the Muslim north of Nigeria. It is hot, dusty, crowded and faces its own unique challenges because of its location in Kebbi State, where Sharia law reigns supreme. Sharia law, although not as strongly imposed as in, say, Saudi Arabia, still affects the Christians of Yelwa Yauri in many and varied ways. St Dominic’s primary school is run by Nigerian Dominican Sisters and caters for chil dren from a very wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Many are from peasant farming families who really struggle to ensure that their offspring receive an education. In fact some of the children at St Dominic’s are the very first in their entire family to be able to read and write. Yet literacy does not remove the difficulties for these children, whose villages are so far away from the school that even fiveyear-olds must board in the special hostels within the school premises.
Visit any class in St Dominic’s, except for the class of very little children, and ask who belongs to the Holy Childhood and a forest of hands rises into the air. “What is the motto of Holy Childhood?” Those same hands wave in a frenzied attempt to be the first to respond. “Children helping children.” “What do you do in Holy Childhood?” Again the same eagerness to be the one to supply the answer: “We pray for children across the world and we try to help those who are facing problems.” In England and Wales Holy Childhood is more commonly known as Mission Together, but the aim is the same: to help children to develop a missionary outlook in life, praying for each other and responding to areas of need, and they do a magnificent job. In September 2009 our 5to 11-yearolds enabled the distribution of £56,947 on their behalf. They supported the children in nine dioceses across Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Indonesia. The help they gave varied according to the need: in Uganda, they paid for educational material for 3,500 children. In Zimbabwe, 390 schoolchildren will have a daily meal at school, thanks to them. In Nigeria, 30 special needs children will attend school for a full year.
This is why, on their miniRed Box, children in several national costumes join hands around the walls of a house in which, because the children are helping other children, all are at home.
Sister Janet Fearns FMDM is the communications co-ordinator of Missio. Through Mission Together, children learn to be “minimissionaries”. To learn more about Mission Together and to download free educational materials, go to www.missiontogether.org.uk or e-mail missiontogether @missio.org.uk