Salomonen: Ceciliana Olilaeni

I was born with a heart for the people. When you have commitment and dedication, death or life does not exist for you. People first; you come later.

— Ceciliana Olilaeni

Sister Ceciliana's education and training as a nurse with the Catholic Sisters of the Church in Solomon Islands opened the door for her to shoulder a very important role in peacebuilding in the country when the "social unrest and ethnic violence" between Malaitans and Guadalcanalese erupted in the late 1990s. She joined concerned women in this patriarchal country in such work, helping to change entrenched attitudes and secure peace.

Sister Ceciliana decided very young to join the Catholic Church Sisters of the Church order in Solomon Islands because she saw their good work, helping the sick in hospital. The Sisterhood enabled her to continue her education, train as a nurse, and become a nurse trainer. Her training in the Natural Family Planning program led to her later work on Family Life and Women in Auki, Malaita. From 1999 onwards, when the country was rocked by the "social unrest and ethnic violence" between Malaitans and Guadalcanalese, Sister Ceciliana shouldered a very important role for peace building. She joined a number of concerned women in Honiara in discussions on how they could make contributions towards peace. Her responsibility was also to do away with ethnic differences within the Sisterhood. These were challenging times and many lessons were learned. A retreat helped Sisters of the two warring ethnic groups sort out their own differences and look for solutions, encouraging them to observe the principle of equality and peace; their unity became a model for the people. They learned about dedication and commitment to their common cause of peace and well being for all. They saw first hand the suffering of families and visited the militants' camps, mediating with them to secure ceasefires and to be able to distribute food to all sides. Fear was not in the women's vocabulary and time was not a concern: they did what had to be done despite the trauma, arguments with militants and being shot at when distributing and exchanging food. When caught in the crossfire, their presence often secured a ceasefire and saved a village or center from being burned down.

Honiara Women for Peace Conference for Women Religious (CWR)