“Messenger” editor Randy Miller provided this report
A note to Conference attendees: The Office of the General Secretary has clarified that it is appropriate to identify Rebecca Dali and her association with the Brethren, and encourages the sharing of any photos and reports about her that appear in official Church of the Brethren publications such as the website Brethren.org, Newsline, and the denominational Facebook page.
Annual Conference delegates voted Saturday in favor of a resolution indicating solidarity with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The resolution comes as the Nigerian Brethren endure turmoil in their country.
Among other things, it commits to a week of fasting and prayer on Aug. 17-24, and invites the worldwide community of the Brethren to join in that commitment.
The resolution was adopted by the Mission and Ministry Board on Wednesday, July 2, and was passed on to the Standing Committee of district delegates, which recommended its approval.
The Saturday afternoon business session began with the reading of a letter from EYN president Samuel Dante Dali by his wife Rebecca Dali. “On behalf of EYN, I wish to express our appreciation for your concern over our situation here,” the letter read in part. “We have been struck down by the enemy, but not destroyed. We are hard pressed and persecuted, yet we still have Christ and are doing our Father’s business. Your prayers of support have been a source of encouragement for us, and show us that we are not alone in our suffering.”
Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer provided further detail about the conditions faced by Brethren in Nigeria. He and Roy Winter, associate executive director for Global Mission and Service and director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, are planning a visit to Nigeria in August to explore ways in which further assistance can be provided.
“This is going to be a long journey,” Winter said. “We can’t fix it all, but we can work and pray with our brothers and sisters there.”
While the resolution was before the delegates for consideration, an amendment was presented suggesting that, in addition to supporting EYN through prayer and fasting, individuals willing to present themselves as stand-ins in exchange for the abducted Chibok schoolgirls should be allowed to do so. Church of the Brethren member Cliff Kindy, who presented the amendment on behalf of himself and Christian Peacemaker Teams, said several persons already had expressed their willingness to do this.
Although they expressed appreciation for the courage and sacrifice evident in the offer, delegates voted down the amendment. With no further modifications, the resolution was accepted. Delegates and observers rose in a standing ovation in an expression of support for EYN.
Following is the full text of the resolution:
A Resolute Fast and Fervent Prayer: A Resolution Responding to Violence in Nigeria
“Christ is just like the human body--a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body.... If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other” (1 Corinthians 12:12a, 26-27, CEB).
I. Biblical vision of the church
The Apostle Paul wrote frequently of the bonds between communities of faith that bridge the miles between them. Our shared confession of Jesus Christ as Lord unites us, through the Holy Spirit, in a way unparalleled even by family or national ties (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12). This same Spirit, Paul reminds us, intercedes on our behalf when our own prayers become sighs too deep for words (Romans 8).
For the Brethren, the church as community is central to our life and faith. In testaments to mutuality, we have walked alongside one another in joy and loss, taking to heart the words of the letter to the Hebrews: “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured” (13:3).
II. The struggle of our sisters and brothers
The circumstances in Nigeria have come to the attention of the world, and to our attention as Brethren. Sisters and brothers of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) suffer kidnappings, bombings, mass killings, and burning of churches and homes. Despite the global awareness, the violence has continued at an alarming rate.
EYN leaders have asked for fasting and prayer for the plight of the church and the people of Nigeria.
Aware that sisters and brothers in Nigeria are not the only ones facing violence on a daily basis, we include in our prayers those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Syria, and other places where people face threats that few in the United States have known in their lifetime.
III. The resolve of the church
Grieving with each new word from Nigeria, we as the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren resolve to walk with our sisters and brothers in Christ by entering a season of fasting and prayer. We commit ourselves to the practices of lament, prayer, fasting, and bearing witness.
In lament we turn to the rich tradition of our faith witnessed to by the Psalms. We bring to God the realities of evil and violence, knowing that they bear no resemblance to the ways of God.
In prayer we intercede for our sisters and brothers, asking God for protection, justice, and peace. We give thanks for their profound witness as they strive for the well-being of their families and communities, seeking to embody the peace so graciously given through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who calls us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Thus, we pray also for the perpetrators of violence, for the softening of hearts and for right relationships among neighbors.
In fasting we let go of a little in order to accompany those who are losing so much, and stand before God with them. We name our longing for the day when life overcomes death, justice and peace meet, and love drives out fear.
In bearing witness we share the stories of our sisters and brothers, bringing atrocities to light, confident in our faith that the Good News of Jesus Christ is indeed light in a world covered in darkness.
We commit a week of the summer to spend significant amounts of time in fasting and prayer, beginning Sunday, August 17, through Sunday, August 24. We invite the worldwide community of the Church of the Brethren and our sister churches in Nigeria, India, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Brazil, and Spain, as well as Brethren groups with which we are in conversation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other friends and believers, to join in this commitment. May we be the body of Christ together as we pray and fast for peace and reconciliation.
We further resolve to partner with EYN and ecumenical international relief and development agencies to offer support as requested and directed by the leadership of the Nigerian Brethren.
“The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b, NRSV).
References and resources
A history and timeline of the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria, out of which EYN has grown, are posted online at www.brethren.org/nigeriahistory .
The EYN website www.eynchurchonline.org offers information about the ministries of the Nigerian Brethren.
Current Church of the Brethren news from Nigeria is updated regularly at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/news.html .
Just peace and just policing: An Annual Conference resolution of 2003, “Call for a Living Peace Church,” calls the whole church to be a peace church that serves Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace; www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2003livingpeace.html . An Annual Conference statement of 1996, “Nonviolence and Humanitarian Intervention,” offers a Brethren point of view on international intervention in situations of violence; www.brethren.org/ac/statements/1996nonviolence.html . Documents on just peace from the World Council of Churches include “Statement on the Way of Just Peace” at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/assembly/2013-busan/adopted-documents-statements/the-way-of-just-peace and “An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace” at www.overcomingviolence.org/fileadmin/dov/files/iepc/resources/ECJustPeace_English.pdf .
Sex trafficking and slavery: An Annual Conference “Resolution on Slavery in the 21st Century” was adopted in 2008; www.brethren.org/ac/statements/2008-resolution-on-slavery.html . A related Study and Action Guide is at www.brethren.org/advocacy/moderndayslavery.html .
Nigeria and peacemaking in Africa: Are There Limits to Pacifism? by Musa Mambula outlines challenges for peacemaking in Nigeria. Seeking Peace in Africa (ed. Donald Miller et al) collects presentations from a peace church meeting in Africa in 2004. The DVD of that meeting, Watu Wa Amani, is available from Brethren Press. Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria by former Brethren mission teachers Gerald and Lois Neher, is a detailed history and anthropological study of the Chibok people, also available from Brethren Press.