Mission 21, a longstanding partner of the Church of the Brethren mission in Nigeria and of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding about continuing cooperation in the Nigeria Crisis Response.
Mission 21 director Claudia Bandixen visited the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on April 2 to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and to hold meetings with general secretary Stan Noffsinger, Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer, and Nigeria Crisis Response co-directors Carl and Roxane Hill.
Formerly known as Basel Mission, Mission 21 is based in Switzerland. Begun in 1815, it served as an independent Christian mission society. Currently it is active in 21 nations, and several European Christian denominations are taking part. The organization started work in Nigeria several decades ago, and in 1950 it became a partner with the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria and with EYN. At that time, Mission 21's traditional areas of service in northeastern Nigeria were joined with the rest of the church body of EYN.
Mission 21's focus is faith-based development work, Bandixen explained in an interview after the MOU was signed. The group’s four “legs” are work on health, poverty, education, and peace. In Nigeria, Mission 21 has focused on education and health care in cooperation with EYN. One of its projects dealt with HIV/AIDS in northeast Nigeria.
The understanding of Mission 21, Bandixen said, is that evangelism and church planting are the responsibility of church partners such as EYN, and that the responsibility of the mission is development. The mission welcomes the way Christian communities of faith tend to grow up in areas where it is active, but Mission 21's goal is not to plant new churches or to recreate the European churches that support it.
Mission 21's work in Nigeria began in the community of Gava, and its traditional area of work in northeastern Nigeria also has included Gwoza--the first town that was overrun and claimed by the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency. In recent weeks, however, the Nigeria army and military forces from neighboring countries have been pushing Boko Haram out of those areas. Because of the violence in Nigeria in recent years, Mission 21 has not had placed employees there since 2010, Bandixen said.
She noted several aspects to the MOU that are important to Mission 21, especially a focus on joint advocacy for Nigeria and for other places around the world where violence results from religious fanaticism, and where such violence is directed specifically at women and girls.
Mission 21 already is in the midst of creating an advocacy campaign, Bandixen said. The campaign will have a political component but also will include liturgical materials suitable for worship services as well as an invitation for Christians to make a personal commitment to join in. Mission 21 will be translating campaign materials into English in order to share them with the Church of the Brethren, she said.
In regard to how Mission 21 will engage the cooperative work in Nigeria, Bandixen said the organization must first send an expert to Nigeria to carry out an assessment of the situation and the needs, and then the organization will be considering next steps.
The MOU that was signed resolves to work in ecumenical partnership toward mutual mission, development projects, and relief work in Nigeria, creating a three-way partnership between the Church of the Brethren, Mission 21, and EYN, as all three work to address the ongoing Nigerian crisis.
For more about the Nigeria Crisis Response go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .