Muslims and Christians are fleeing Maiduguri, a large city in northeastern Nigeria, looking for safer places after Boko Haram insurgents attacked the area over the weekend and the Nigerian army responded, reports EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache. In a separate report Cliff Kindy, a short-term volunteer in Nigeria with Brethren Disaster Ministries, writes about efforts of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) to serve the thousands who have fled into Maiduguri to escape continuing violent attacks of Boko Haram insurgents on other communities in northeast Nigeria. The two reports are below.
Following are excerpts from Gamache's report:
Mongonu army barracks and Mongonu town [near Maiduguri] have been taken over by Boko Haram. The attack on the main city of Maiduguri was repulsed and a 24-hour curfew was imposed to avoid any Boko Haram influx. [This means] more and more pressure on camps [of displaced people], food supplies, rented houses, need for transportation, medical help for more injured people, and more need to give awareness to the two faiths to understand their situation.
The fight to defeat Boko Haram in the northeast is not giving civil society the hope that was expected. There have been more killings in the towns of Michika, Askira Uba, Madagali, Gwoza, and the rest. Three women were slaughtered three days ago in Wagga village. There was more burning of houses and farm produce in Garta, in Michika area, and more killing also in Kubi, in Michika area--but all these people are still holding to their traditional villages. There are daily warnings for people to run after several raids by Boko Haram, but many think their traditional land must not be taken by terrorists.
Our brothers and sisters that are escaping from the hands of Boko Haram are not spared by the security personnel, those that were trapped in Cameroon and are coming back into Nigeria face the same danger of killing and harassment. Camps of displaced people are increasing in population, more and more people are becoming helpless. [We are receiving] telephone calls that are becoming echoes of problems, wariness, and fear, hearing the cries of people with no wisdom to offer in solving their problems.
From Maiduguri, Yobe, the Cameroon border, and Adamawa State telephone calls are coming in: "Dying!!!!! Any help?" [There are] tears of joy when you see someone who has been away for some months knocking at your door for help, or calling on phone saying, "Please send some help for me and my family, we are alive." [There is] not much to give since the needs are plenty, but together we shall live and fight our present situation.
We thank God people have been called to take care of the interfaith camp. When we started the camp as a pilot project for 10 families we did not know that the conditions would increase overwhelmingly to this level.
My worry is that the Muslims and Christians are not able to understand the danger of breaking apart, the danger of pointing fingers in a time like this. Boko Haram has no respect for both religions in Nigeria, but the greatest danger is the expansion of the fight into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.
A few hands are helping, and much money is coming in from dear hearts, but always it looks and sounds like a drop in the ocean. I have almost abandoned my official work for humanitarian work, the interfaith peace community, and relocation project for some months now. I have been trying to reduce the number of people in my house but I have no time to consider that because those in the bush have more trouble than those in my house. The inconvenience to my wife, children, and family is nothing to talk about compared with those who are displaced with nowhere to settle, roaming from one place to another with virtually no food, no shoes, no clothes, no proper water to drink, and no hope to survive.
I pray that God will touch the hearts of Nigerians to look into our situation with a different lens. Militancy is all over the world, and wherever it is, caution is needed to protect innocent lives.
Peace and blessings always.
Following is Kindy's report:
Maiduguri is the capitol city of Borno State. It is home to about 2 million residents. It has the distinction of being known as the birthplace of Boko Haram. It is also home to many churches that belong to EYN. The largest Maiduguri congregation attracts up to 5,000 people for Sunday worship. Over the last few weeks the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, has attacked numerous villages and towns in the far northeast section of Borno State, including Baga and most recently Maiduguri itself.
There had been a local EYN congregation in Baga at the time of the destruction of the city that made international news recently. There were many other EYN congregations and preaching points in the area stretching from Baga down to Maiduguri. Those congregations have been in harm's way as the Boko Haram has raided and burned many of these small communities. Refugees fleeing the violence have escaped into Chad, Niger, and Cameroon for safety. Many have also fled into the fortified city of Maiduguri.
EYN has a well coordinated response to the crisis within the city. There are three Christian IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps within the city limits and six Muslim IDP camps. Most of the Christians, however, are staying with families and friends, with as many as 50 to 70 people in some of the homes. Though not all the displaced are registered, yesterday (Saturday) there was a total of 45,858 Christian IDPs registered in the city and there are probably close to a similar number of Muslims in the 6 camps. That number has increased nearly threefold from before Christmas and is growing rapidly each day. Federal and state governments have been providing assistance to the IDP camps and the organization of the Christian community has seemed to cover those IDPs staying with families who are missed by the government distributions.
Security within the city is very tight. Persons going to markets or churches are closely screened. Metal detecting wands scan each person at churches before entry. If there is any question people are patted down. No packages are allowed inside the church. A Bible is the only thing attendees are allowed to carry with them. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can pass through security unimpeded. That Spirit seems to be present in abundance as churches are growing under the pressure.
Updates are coming in. Today (Sunday) Maiduguri was being attacked by Boko Haram from three directions. In the east they were 30 kilometers away; in the north, 130 kilometers away; and in the west, 10 kilometers away. People inside Maiduguri said it sounded like shooting was coming from all directions. An EYN pastor in Jos has three children in school in Maiduguri and they were the ones that called with the first reports. The city ordered all people to stay indoors so that the military would know who was attacking. The markets were closed. Latest reports are that the military repelled the attacks against Maiduguri but that a city to the north, with Nigerian military barracks, did fall to the attackers. Clearly Boko Haram wants everyone to think they are everywhere and able to attack successfully wherever they choose.
-- Markus Gamache is staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and is one of the Nigerian church staff working on the cooperative Nigeria Crisis Response effort of EYN, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Church of the Brethren. Cliff Kindy is a short-term volunteer serving in Nigeria with Brethren Disaster Ministries. For more see www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis and the Nigeria blog at http://blog.brethren.org/category/nigeria .