A gathering of news and updates from Nigeria, along with news of continuing prayer and support for Nigerian Brethren from US congregations and ecumenical partners:
-- Last week Nigerian media reported that the Boko Haram insurgent group released four of the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok, quoting the chairman of the Chibok Local Government Area who spoke at a meeting held by the National Emergency Management Agency drafting a humanitarian response plan. However, since then other Nigerian media reports have quoted a man said to be a negotiator retained by the Nigerian government to seek the girls’ release, saying that girls who have fallen ill have not yet been released by the insurgent group. Find these news reports at http://allafrica.com/stories/201405290425.html and at http://allafrica.com/stories/201406022543.html .
-- Killings by Boko Haram have continued in northeastern Nigeria, including the murder of the Emir of Gwoza. The emir was a traditional Muslim leader for the Gwoza area near the Cameroon border, where there have been repeated violent attacks in which many have died. The emir was killed in an ambush that reportedly occurred on a road near Garkida, the place where the Church of the Brethren Mission first started in Nigeria. Also over the weekend, an attack in the Gamboru Ngala area of Borno State killed some 42 people--in the same area where an attack three weeks ago left at least 300 dead. All Christians are reported to be fleeing the Gwoza area. The Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Idrissa Shehu Timta, was killed while traveling in a convoy with the Emir of Uba, and the Emir of Askira. Reported AllAfrica.com: “An Askira palace source who spoke to journalists in Maiduguri on telephone said: ‘The people of Uba and Gwoza were shocked and terrified with the sad news that our royal fathers were attacked by armed youths in Toyota Hilux vehicles and motorcycles at a spot on Garkida Road this morning.’ ... The government described the late Emir as a great man who worked very hard to promote peace and progress in Gwoza. He was a pillar and one of the rallying points in Borno State. He visibly worked very hard in the search for peace in Gwoza since the insurgency began.” Read the report at http://allafrica.com/stories/201405310026.html .
-- The abduction of two more EYN women by Boko Haram was reported in a May 20 e-mail from Rebecca Dali, wife of president Samuel Dali of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The two EYN women were abducted in Barawa, on their way from church the previous Sunday. In her e-mail, she added: “I am on my way to Yola for peaceful demonstration with widows who lost their husbands through bombings, slaughtering, and some of their husbands were abducted with 1 or 2 sons killed. So traumatized.” The Dalis’ daughter who is in Law School and was on Court attachment in Jos, survived a bomb blast in central Jos on May 21. “The bomb was placed few metres away from where she was shopping,” Rebecca Dali wrote. “We need peace in Nigeria.”
-- After bombings May 21 in the city of Jos in central Nigeria, in which more than 100 people were killed, “heart-felt sorrow and condolences” were expressed in a joint statement by Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, chair of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, according to a WCC release. “We strongly condemn the recent bombings in Jos, Nigeria. The location and timing of the bombings clearly were designed to cause indiscriminate and widespread casualties among passers-by, and among rescue workers who were coming to their aid,” read the statement. Both religious leaders were in Jos in 2012 with a Christian-Muslim delegation to Nigeria. They stressed that the horrific acts do not represent in any way either of their two religions. “They have made us even more determined to find ways to support the people of Nigeria and those who are seeking to put an end to violence in the country,” said the statement. “Peace is a blessing from God. Christianity and Islam call for peace and harmony among all of humanity, and do not condone or allow offensive warfare or aggression.” Read full text at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/joint-declarations/wcc-rabiit-statement-on-jos-bombings .
-- A “reader viewpoint” by former Bethany Seminary president Eugene F. Roop was published by the “Herald-Bulletin” in Anderson, Ind., calling for support for the people of Nigeria following on the kidnapping of the schoolgirls from Chibok. Published May 27, the letter titled, “Pray, give to help victims of Nigerian kidnapping,” noted the local connections saying, “While Anderson and Chibok are divided by oceans and miles, this troublesome story hits the Anderson Church of the Brethren personally.... We know that over 200 of the kidnapped girls are from Brethren families. These are very much ‘our girls,’ as are those of other faiths--including Muslim--who have faced similar violence in Africa. They are all our girls,” Roop wrote. “The problems girls and women face in Africa are too numerous for this short piece: overwhelming poverty, harsh environments, the lack of adequate health care and a cultural resistance to educating females reflect just a drop in the bucket of challenges confronting half of Africa’s population. We cannot directly rescue the girls. Whatever the political outcome--and whether or not the girls are returned to their families--this kidnapping will continue to have tragic consequences. There will be an ongoing need for assistance for the girls and for their families.” Roop called the Anderson community to extend financial support to Nigerian Brethren through the Anderson Church of the Brethren. Read the letter at www.heraldbulletin.com/opinion/x2117421881/Reader-viewpoint-Pray-give-to-help-victims-of-Nigerian-kidnapping .
-- A fundraiser for the families of the abducted girls sponsored by Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in Littleton, Colo., received coverage from CBS Denver, Channel 4. The evening titled “Bring Back Our Girls!: A Night of Compassion and Action,” took place May 27 at the church near Denver and featured video from peacemaking work in Nigeria, an opportunity to speak to church members who have served in Nigeria as teachers or workers, music, refreshments, a silent auction, and merchandise sales. The event benefited the EYN Compassion Fund. Find the CBS coverage, which describes Prince of Peace as “a small church with a big heart,” at http://denver.cbslocal.com/2014/05/26/littleton-church-with-ties-to-kidnapped-nigerian-girls-to-hold-fundraiser .
-- Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has expressed deep concern for the continued disappearance of the more than 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria and the continued violence there, according to an ELCA release. She has written letters to Nigerian religious leaders including president Samuel Dali of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and to Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States. In her letters to Dali and to Archbishop Nemuel A. Babba of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, Eaton wrote: “We pray with you for God’s guidance, the government of Nigeria and all those involved in securing the return of the girls.” In her letter to Nigerian ambassador Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, Eaton wrote: “Our concern (for the girls) is not based merely on principle, although we would most certainly issue concern about such an incident based upon the ELCA’s long-standing commitment to human rights, especially the rights of children. The Gospel of Mark 10:16 reminds Christians of the special regard and care Jesus himself had for children; as followers of Jesus, we believe that children should be treated as Christ lovingly cared for them.” She also expressed hope for a peaceful resolution to this situation “knowing that we serve a God of peace.”