BY JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
The desire to expand her circle of influence as an educational psychologist and guidance counsellor drew her into the world of Moral Re-Armament/Initiative of Change- MRA/IoC which is a worldwide movement initiated by famous Frank Buchman in 1938 as a successor to the Oxford Group. The movement maintains that the practice of high morality in public and private life is the key to world betterment. Thirteen years down the line, Mrs.Benedicta Opara has become an international council member of the movement. Also the National Coordinator for Creators of Peace which is an offshoot of MRA/IoC and the National Financial Secretary, MRA/IoC, Nigeria, Benedicta is presently a Deputy Director of Education in the Lagos State Civil Service. Vista Woman had a chat with her during a recent 4-day peace circle training organised in Lagos by the Creators of Peace with facilitators from South-Africa.
What’s the idea behind the Creators of Peace?
This initiative, Creators of Peace, is an offshoot of Moral Re-Armament. It’s actually exclusively for women and it is designed to address both inter and intra personal war. Women are powerful change agents in every society and except they are in the right frame of mind and have enough energy within, they may not be able to fulfill this role.
Despite the instabilities in different parts of the world today, it is important for women to understand ways of building inner peace because as role models, they must be embodiments of peace and must be able to solve issues peacefully and lovingly. Total peace does not exist anywhere, so, the idea is to learn to develop inner peace in the midst of challenges.
How significant is this initiative to Nigeria as a nation?
We all know the turmoil that has threatened our nation in recent times. Thank God the days of militancy are over in the South-South region, anyway.
Our existence is however now threatened by the North! Being women, this circle of peace agents now being trained by the Moral Re-Armament, would be able to influence various spheres- political, economic, to mention but a few, by talking to their husbands who are in power. Women in government too would be able to evoke changes when taught to maintain inner peace in the midst of crisis. This initiative is not dependent on academic qualification, so, market and also rural women are also part of the initiative.
Looking at events in the country, would you say Nigerian women are playing their roles as change agents and role models?
I’m sorry to say that mothers are no longer close to the family unit like we had in the past. I however blame this on society because most women are now breadwinners in their homes! This is a global phenomenon and not one that is peculiar to Nigeria. Although, I want to emphasise that the major problem with us in Nigeria is the fact that we put so much emphasis on wealth acquisition rather than on giving training to children. Every mother is duty-bound to train every child brought into this world by her! We must lay good foundation for our children and be there to guide them in the right path even as they grow. When we also learn to live as role models, these children would be able to imbibe good values by simply emulating us. But in a situation where we are scarcely there, who do we expect them to learn from?
Being an educationist, how did you venture into this line of voluntary service?
I encountered Moral Re-Armament at an entrepreneurship gathering organised by a group of women in the year 2000. The initiative actually caught my fancy because of its emphasis on moral standard. It operates on four standards which include absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love. Every member is taught to live by these standards. I actually studied Educational Psychology(Guidance Counselling) at the University of Port-Harcourt. So, as an educational psychologist, I basically work with children. My job involves helping people overcome character challenges and issues that disrupt their education and way of life. So, joining the Moral Re-Armament movement helps me serve as a better counsellor.
As a counsellor and advocate of peace, what’s your advice to every Nigerian as to how we could all restore peace?
Be the change you wish to see in the world. Be the light because the candle that lights another loses nothing. Let us light up the world by starting with ourselves.