Boko Haram overruns Nigerian Brethren headquarters

Photo: Nigerian children who have displaced from their homes by the violent insurgency in northeast Nigeria. These children are among the people from EYN congregations who are now living in classrooms at a former school of EYN, the Monroe Good Bible College Chinka. Photo by David Sollenberger.

Church of the Brethren calls for international attention to crisis in Nigeria.

The world has followed the tragic abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria.

Yet that tragedy is just one incident in an increasingly bloody attempt by Boko Haram insurgents to make northeast Nigeria into an Islamic caliphate.

Caught in the middle is Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), the largest Christian denomination in the area of northeast Nigeria where Boko Haram is taking territory.

Relief goods are distributed at a relocation site for displaced people in central Nigeria. The site is one of at least two being created by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) in a cooperative effort with Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Global Mission and Service office of the Church of the Brethren in the United States, with leadership from EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache. This site has a special purpose to be intentionally interfaith as a place where Muslim and Christian families may live side by side. Shown here: staff of CCEPI, a nonprofit aid agency led by Rebecca Dali, the wife of EYN president Samuel Dali, share relief goods.
Relief goods are distributed at a relocation site for displaced people in central Nigeria. Shown here: staff of CCEPI, a nonprofit aid agency led by Rebecca Dali, the wife of EYN president Samuel Dali, share relief goods.

This year, EYN has seen many of its churches and congregations destroyed, as thousands of church members have been killed and pastors and their families have been among the hundreds more people abducted since the Chibok schoolgirls were taken. Most of the schoolgirls were from EYN. Estimates are that more than 90,000 EYN church members have been displaced by the fighting this year.

Now the situation of EYN is dire, as its headquarters property and Kulp Bible College have been taken by Boko Haram. The attack on the headquarters on Oct. 29 occurred as Boko Haram fighters were on their way to attack and take the nearby city of Mubi, near the Cameroon border.

People living at the EYN headquarters fled for their lives, including families of denominational staff and Bible college students. It is believed that most of those at the EYN headquarters escaped alive, but many people in Mubi and surrounding villages were killed, and others are now trapped in the control of Boko Haram.

The EYN staff is now displaced, and the church leadership is working to regroup. They are faced with the prospect of having to rebuild church offices and relocate staff and their families, at the same time the church continues to aid thousands of members who have been displaced. In addition, hundreds of pastors who were serving churches in the conflict zone also are displaced without jobs or means to provide for families.

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Dante Dali, president of EYN, is calling for urgent help from the international community for the people affected by violence in northeast Nigeria. In a letter he sent to the Church of the Brethren in the United States last month, he also called for the Nigerian government to give serious attention to the suffering of the people.

“We need urgent help from the international community if the global community can have compassion on us,” he wrote in the email. “The future of Nigeria is getting darker and darker day by day, but Nigerian political leaders do not seem to take the suffering of the people seriously. The government of Nigeria with all its security seems weak and helpless in handling the crisis.”

A camp for displaced families at a school in central Nigeria. Members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria are among those taking refuge at this Stefanos Foundation IDP Camp at a secondary school in Bukuru, near the city of Jos. Photo by David Sollenberger.
A camp for displaced families at a school in central Nigeria. Members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria are among those taking refuge at this Stefanos Foundation IDP Camp at a secondary school in Bukuru, near the city of Jos. Photo by David Sollenberger.

“Our hearts are broken about what’s happening in Nigeria,” says Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in the United States. “However, we’re not so overwhelmed by this horror that we have become inactive. We are making a bold response. The board of the Church of the Brethren has committed up to $1.5 million to a new relief effort in Nigeria, in cooperation with EYN.”

The American church also is beginning a more concerted advocacy effort to bring international attention to the crisis in northeast Nigeria.

The effort encourages nonviolent solutions, such as an international effort to cut off Boko Haram’s weaponry and funding, and international humanitarian aid for the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who are internally displaced or are refugees in Cameroon and Niger.

The Church of the Brethren calls for international pressure on the Nigerian government to better serve its people—those who have lost loved ones in the conflict, orphans, women who have been brutalized, men who have lost jobs and the means to support their families, those living in camps or sheltering with extended family elsewhere without the means for food, shelter, and medical care.

A view of the inside of the gates to the headquarters compound of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria. The compound in the village of Kwarhi near Mubi, Nigeria, was attacked and taken by the Boko Haram insurgents in late October. This photo was taken in March 2014. Photo by Jay Wittmeyer
A view of the inside of the gates to the headquarters compound of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria. The compound in the village of Kwarhi near Mubi, Nigeria, was attacked and taken by the Boko Haram insurgents in late October. This photo was taken in March 2014. Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

The relief work that the Church of the Brethren is helping to carry out with EYN already has begun, including providing food and supplies to the displaced and building temporary shelters at “care centers” in safer locations in central Nigeria, among other priorities that now include the relocation of the EYN offices and staff.

In 1923, Church of the Brethren members from the United States began the mission effort that led to the emergence of EYN as an indigenous African Christian church that, up until recent destruction wrought by the insurgency, was estimated to have an attendance of close to 1 million in Nigeria and has mission efforts in neighboring countries.

For more information about Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria and the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria, go to www.brethren.org/nigeria.

Crisis Facts (as of 10/1/2014)
  • More than 500 women and children kidnapped, many of whom are EYN members
  • 3,038 EYN members killed
  • Around three million people affected
  • 96,000 EYN members are displaced—needing shelter, food and water
  • 37 of 50 EYN districts are impacted
  • 18 districts are closed in areas now controlled by Boko Haram
  • 280 EYN pastors and evangelists are displaced

This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Boko Haram overruns Nigerian Brethren headquarters

Photo: Nigerian children who have displaced from their homes by the violent insurgency in northeast Nigeria. These children are among the people from EYN congregations who are now living in classrooms at a former school of EYN, the Monroe Good Bible College Chinka. Photo by David Sollenberger.

Church of the Brethren calls for international attention to crisis in Nigeria.

The world has followed the tragic abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria.

Yet that tragedy is just one incident in an increasingly bloody attempt by Boko Haram insurgents to make northeast Nigeria into an Islamic caliphate.

Caught in the middle is Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), the largest Christian denomination in the area of northeast Nigeria where Boko Haram is taking territory.

Relief goods are distributed at a relocation site for displaced people in central Nigeria. The site is one of at least two being created by Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) in a cooperative effort with Brethren Disaster Ministries and the Global Mission and Service office of the Church of the Brethren in the United States, with leadership from EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache. This site has a special purpose to be intentionally interfaith as a place where Muslim and Christian families may live side by side. Shown here: staff of CCEPI, a nonprofit aid agency led by Rebecca Dali, the wife of EYN president Samuel Dali, share relief goods.
Relief goods are distributed at a relocation site for displaced people in central Nigeria. Shown here: staff of CCEPI, a nonprofit aid agency led by Rebecca Dali, the wife of EYN president Samuel Dali, share relief goods.

This year, EYN has seen many of its churches and congregations destroyed, as thousands of church members have been killed and pastors and their families have been among the hundreds more people abducted since the Chibok schoolgirls were taken. Most of the schoolgirls were from EYN. Estimates are that more than 90,000 EYN church members have been displaced by the fighting this year.

Now the situation of EYN is dire, as its headquarters property and Kulp Bible College have been taken by Boko Haram. The attack on the headquarters on Oct. 29 occurred as Boko Haram fighters were on their way to attack and take the nearby city of Mubi, near the Cameroon border.

People living at the EYN headquarters fled for their lives, including families of denominational staff and Bible college students. It is believed that most of those at the EYN headquarters escaped alive, but many people in Mubi and surrounding villages were killed, and others are now trapped in the control of Boko Haram.

The EYN staff is now displaced, and the church leadership is working to regroup. They are faced with the prospect of having to rebuild church offices and relocate staff and their families, at the same time the church continues to aid thousands of members who have been displaced. In addition, hundreds of pastors who were serving churches in the conflict zone also are displaced without jobs or means to provide for families.

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Dante Dali, president of EYN, is calling for urgent help from the international community for the people affected by violence in northeast Nigeria. In a letter he sent to the Church of the Brethren in the United States last month, he also called for the Nigerian government to give serious attention to the suffering of the people.

“We need urgent help from the international community if the global community can have compassion on us,” he wrote in the email. “The future of Nigeria is getting darker and darker day by day, but Nigerian political leaders do not seem to take the suffering of the people seriously. The government of Nigeria with all its security seems weak and helpless in handling the crisis.”

A camp for displaced families at a school in central Nigeria. Members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria are among those taking refuge at this Stefanos Foundation IDP Camp at a secondary school in Bukuru, near the city of Jos. Photo by David Sollenberger.
A camp for displaced families at a school in central Nigeria. Members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria are among those taking refuge at this Stefanos Foundation IDP Camp at a secondary school in Bukuru, near the city of Jos. Photo by David Sollenberger.

“Our hearts are broken about what’s happening in Nigeria,” says Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in the United States. “However, we’re not so overwhelmed by this horror that we have become inactive. We are making a bold response. The board of the Church of the Brethren has committed up to $1.5 million to a new relief effort in Nigeria, in cooperation with EYN.”

The American church also is beginning a more concerted advocacy effort to bring international attention to the crisis in northeast Nigeria.

The effort encourages nonviolent solutions, such as an international effort to cut off Boko Haram’s weaponry and funding, and international humanitarian aid for the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who are internally displaced or are refugees in Cameroon and Niger.

The Church of the Brethren calls for international pressure on the Nigerian government to better serve its people—those who have lost loved ones in the conflict, orphans, women who have been brutalized, men who have lost jobs and the means to support their families, those living in camps or sheltering with extended family elsewhere without the means for food, shelter, and medical care.

A view of the inside of the gates to the headquarters compound of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria. The compound in the village of Kwarhi near Mubi, Nigeria, was attacked and taken by the Boko Haram insurgents in late October. This photo was taken in March 2014. Photo by Jay Wittmeyer
A view of the inside of the gates to the headquarters compound of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria. The compound in the village of Kwarhi near Mubi, Nigeria, was attacked and taken by the Boko Haram insurgents in late October. This photo was taken in March 2014. Photo by Jay Wittmeyer

The relief work that the Church of the Brethren is helping to carry out with EYN already has begun, including providing food and supplies to the displaced and building temporary shelters at “care centers” in safer locations in central Nigeria, among other priorities that now include the relocation of the EYN offices and staff.

In 1923, Church of the Brethren members from the United States began the mission effort that led to the emergence of EYN as an indigenous African Christian church that, up until recent destruction wrought by the insurgency, was estimated to have an attendance of close to 1 million in Nigeria and has mission efforts in neighboring countries.

For more information about Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria and the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria, go to www.brethren.org/nigeria.

Crisis Facts (as of 10/1/2014)
  • More than 500 women and children kidnapped, many of whom are EYN members
  • 3,038 EYN members killed
  • Around three million people affected
  • 96,000 EYN members are displaced—needing shelter, food and water
  • 37 of 50 EYN districts are impacted
  • 18 districts are closed in areas now controlled by Boko Haram
  • 280 EYN pastors and evangelists are displaced

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