KWARHI, Nigeria — Boko Haram insurgents overtook the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria headquarters property Oct. 29.
Both the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) headquarters and Kulp Bible College were attacked and taken. Boko Haram is in control of Kwarhi, and also reportedly has taken the nearby city of Mubi, and another nearby town of Maraba.
At the time of the attack on Kwarhi and the EYN headquarters, staff including EYN president Samuel Dali were holding meetings in a community several miles away and were safe. However, their families, many of whom had returned to their homes on the headquarters property in recent weeks, were forced to flee for their lives.
In the attack on the EYN headquarters, some of the compound’s guards were killed and the conference hall was hit by a rocket launcher. During the attack on Kwarhi, many soldiers stationed there also were killed.
There is uncertainty about the whereabouts of some Kulp Bible College students and family members. Some weeks ago, when Boko Haram attacks were closing in on Kwarhi, KBC was closed, and students and families, as well as EYN staff families, were evacuated. However, families had been returning, and in recent days there were reports that KBC was reopening.
EYN staff and their families are taking refuge in a community several miles from the Mubi area, where they are assessing needs and waiting to hear from some members of the community.
EYN President Samuel Dali said “the situation is very bad” in a telephone conversation with Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, and requested prayer.
The Global Mission office has transferred $100,000, which has been collected for the EYN Compassion Fund to assist EYN meet immediate needs.
EYN is the largest Christian denomination in the area of northeast Nigeria where Boko Haram is taking territory.
This year EYN has seen many of its churches and congregations destroyed. Thousands of church members have been killed, and pastors and their families have been among the hundreds more abducted since about 200 Chibok schoolgirls were taken earlier in the year.
More than 90,000 EYN church members are estimated to have been displaced. Hundreds of pastors who were serving churches in the conflict zone also are displaced without jobs or means to provide for families.
Dali, the EYN president, is calling for help from the international community. In a letter he sent to the Church of the Brethren in the U.S., he said Nigeria’s future was getting darker by the day.
“Nigerian political leadership do not seem to take the suffering of the people very seriously,” he wrote. “The government of Nigeria with all its security seems very weak and helpless in handling the crisis.”
Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger said the church was not so overwhelmed by the horror to become inactive.
“We are making a bold response,” he said. “The board of the Church of the Brethren has committed up to $1.5 million to a new relief effort in Nigeria, working 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 humanitarian aid for the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who are internally displaced or are refugees in Cameroon and Niger.
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 in safer locations in central Nigeria.