Catholic Priest’s Psycho-Spiritual Initiative Seeks to Address Growing Trauma in Nigeria

Fr. George Ehusani of Nigeria’s Lokoja Diocese, blessing some children during Holy Mass. Credit: Fr. George Ehusani/

Nigerians in the Northern part of the West African nation and other regions of the country that are experiencing militant attacks are traumatized, a Catholic Priest who spearheaded an institute that provides psycho-spiritual support for victims of religious extremism in the country has told ACI Africa.

Having partnered with Missio Aachen, Fr. George Ehusani is behind the Psycho-Spiritual Institute (PSI) that equips beneficiaries of the initiative with the necessary tools to provide psychotherapy to victims of violence in Nigeria and in other African countries experiencing violent conflicts.

Established in 2012, PSI is a response to “an urgent need to offer professional psychological and spiritual care to the increasing number of clerical, religious and lay pastoral agents who now and again find themselves in difficult life situations of an emotional and psychological nature, but who often do not find adequate support,” the leadership says in a welcome note.


In an interview with ACI Africa that explored the challenge of insecurity in Nigeria, including why the government seems unable to resolve the problem, how the militants fund their operations, and the place of the international community, Fr. Ehusani said that half of the population in Africa’s most populous country are traumatized and that most of them are living in fear owing to the increasing news of kidnappings and murders of their loved ones.

“In a country like Nigeria, no less than 50 percent of the human beings around here are traumatized today just knowing that you cannot go to bed and you are no longer able to expect that everything will be alright, because every day you are hearing the news of people you know being kidnapped,” Fr. Ehusani said.

“Loved ones are maimed. So, there is tension. There is fear. There is trauma in the land,” the Nigerian Priest told ACI Africa.

PSI’s first campus is in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, at Marist College, a Catholic institution of higher learning affiliated to the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).

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The Abuja campus runs short training programs in Basic Skills for Psycho-Trauma Healing for a wide range of professionals and volunteers.

In Kenya, the Institute has enrolled students from troubled parts of Nigeria, of South Sudan, of the Congo, of Rwanda, of Ivory Coast, of Sierra Leone, and of Burkina Faso, among other countries experiencing insecurity.

Graduates proceed to provide psycho-spiritual support to victims of attacks in their respective countries, Fr. Ehusani who is also at the helm of Lux Terra Leadership Foundation says.

PSI provides a master’s degree in psycho-spiritual therapy, where many Priests and women and men Religious are trained to become experts in giving psychological and spiritual support to people who are suffering in the mentioned countries.

The award-winning Catholic Priest says that it has become difficult for people providing psychosocial support to sustain their initiatives.


“Unfortunately, until today, it is difficult to even get funding to run such projects that we are trying to use to help deal with the trauma,” he observed, and explained, “Normal European agencies are looking for deliverables. They are looking for things like you can buy blankets and bags of rice and so forth and go and deliver. And then write the names of the people you gave. And the next day, you are able to write reports.”

Those are the easier ones to do; when you do the kind of training we are trying to do, for you to get the outcome, results, it will take many years, Fr. Ehusani says, underscoring the challenge of finding partners in initiatives with long-term results such as training and healing the healers.

The Abuja-based Priest said that the world needs to know what is happening in Nigeria where thousands of Christians have already been killed in the first days of 2021.

“The campaign with the international community should continue for attention to be drawn to what is happening. The UN should be aware of what is happening. Various international bodies should be aware of what is happening, those that can have some voice, those that borrow our government’s money because on account of this widespread insecurity, our economy is going down like never before,” he says.

Reflecting on the background of the situation of Christians in Nigeria, Fr. Ehusani noted that while attacks in the West African nation also target Muslims, Christians in the country are the ones who have had a long history of persecution and discrimination that date back to hundreds of years.

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“In 1804, there was a Jihad called the Ousman Dan Fodio jihad that overran the entire Northern Nigeria, 200 years ago,” he says, adding that the war against Christians created an impression that Northern Nigeria is Islamic.

Years later upon the arrival of Christianity, Fr. Ehusani narrates that many Christian missionaries were limited as to where they could go and preach. 

“The British colonialists limited the Christian missionaries, saying, look, you can’t go into the Center of the town of these people. They are Muslims. Don't go in there to disturb the peace. You can only stay outside the city so that those who are non-Hausa and non-Fulani who come from other places, they are the ones you can preach to. Please don't go and disturb the peace,” he says.

With such structures in place, children growing up in Northern Nigeria are convinced that the region is an Islamic territory, the Catholic Priest says. 

“Whatever is happening today did not just begin 10, 12 years ago,” he says, and adds, “It has a long history, a long history of exclusion.”

He says that to date, Christians in Northern Nigerian are locked out of some positions, including those in local government.

Additionally, the country has hundreds of tribes, with the prominent two oppressing others, Fr. Ehusani says.

“Nigeria has almost 400 indigenous groups, tribes. Now there are prominent tribes like the Hausas and the Fulanis. They just don't acknowledge those numerous groups who by the way, if you put all of them together, are the majority. But they have been oppressed for over 200 years,” he says.

The member of the Clergy of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Lokoja bemoans the economic situation in Nigeria, with many foreign businesses closing up operations in the country and choosing to establish themselves in more peaceful countries.

“In 2015 when this government took over, we officially had 150 Naira to a dollar. Today, we have 500 Naira to a dollar,” he says, and adds, “Things are getting terrible because industries are closing; companies are relocating to either Kenya, Ghana or South Africa. Farmers are not able to go to farms. I mean, it's now a risky affair to go to your farm.” 

“There are parts of this country where lots of people are living in internally displaced camps, IDP camps. So many people are now suffering,” Fr. Ehusani says.

He went on to call for spiritual solidarity saying, “We need the prayers of the international community of Christians.”

This is the last of the three-part series of analyses of insecurity in Nigeria amid attacks and abductions. The first part explained the parties involved and why the government seems unable to resolve the problem. The second part focused on how the militants fund their operations. This third part has addressed a psycho-spiritual initiative, which was realized in a partnership that benefits victims of Christian persecution in Nigeria and the traumatized in a host of other African countries.