Newsline Special Marking the 2nd Anniversary of the Chibok Abductions




Participants make a circle of hands at a trauma healing in Nigeria
Photo by Susan Mark, EYN Women's Ministry

Participants make a circle of hands at a trauma healing in Nigeria

“Is your faithful love proclaimed in the grave,
     Your faithfulness in the underworld?
Are your wonders known in the land of darkness,
     Your righteousness in the land of oblivion?
But I cry out to you, Lord!
     My prayer meets you
     first thing in the morning!”  (Psalm 88:11-13, Common English Bible).


1) Still no definitive answers: What Brethren should know on this second anniversary of the Chibok abductions

2) Special events, vigils mark second anniversary of Chibok abductions

3) ‘Long Journey Home’ video updates Brethren about the Nigeria Crisis Response

4) Fellowship tour to Nigeria is planned for August

5) United Nations notes sharp increase in use of child suicide bombers

6) Live your life in the hand of God: An interview with Rebecca Dali


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Quote of the week:

“As April 14 marks the second anniversary of the abduction of 276 young women from their school in Chibok, pray for the families who still have no word on their daughters’ fates. Pray for all the families in northeast Nigeria whose loved ones have been abducted.”

-- One of this week’s mission prayer requests from the Global Mission and Service office. The week’s prayer list also includes Carol and Norm Waggy, Church of the Brethren members who are serving with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) for several months as part of the Nigeria Crisis Response. Among other activities, Carol is preaching in EYN congregations and Norm is teaching a refresher course for dispensers and supervisors of EYN’s Rural Health Program dispensaries.
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1) Still no definitive answers: What Brethren should know on this second anniversary of the Chibok abductions

By Carl and Roxane Hill

#BringBackOurGirls

On April 14, 2014, 276 schoolgirls were abducted from a secondary school in Chibok, in northeast Nigeria. Since the night the girls were taken some 56 have escaped and one reportedly was executed in a vicious stoning incident. That leaves 219 of the girls unaccounted for and, at last report, no one has any concrete information concerning their whereabouts.

It is suspected that these girls are being kept as bargaining chips by their captors, the radical insurgent group Boko Haram. Over the last couple of years, Boko Haram has taken thousands of others captive. But the abduction of these schoolgirls from Chibok rocked the international community and brought world-wide attention to events in Nigeria’s northeast.

As ghastly details have been made public about the Nigerian terrorist group, the reported numbers that have been killed have exceeded all other unstable areas of the world. In 2015, according to the Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram was labeled the world’s deadliest terror organization.

On the eve of the second anniversary of the Chibok abductions, there are no reliable updates available. What we do know is that the parents of these girls have suffered tremendously. The anguish they have experienced is due to the fact that they do not know where their daughters are or what has happened to them.

For some of these parents, the stress on them has been too much to bear. It has been reported to us by Rebecca Dali that some of these parents have died because of a combination of stress and poor health issues. Dr. Dali, who is a leading member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and heads up the humanitarian nonprofit group CCEPI that serves widows and orphans and others affected by the violence, has made repeated trips to Chibok. She has traveled through dangerous territory to bring relief materials and encouragement to these parents. The parents have been very grateful for the help. Unfortunately, they can do nothing but worry about the safety of the girls and pray for their delivery.

Chibok once hosted a small mission station for Church of the Brethren missionaries. The mission station was founded in 1941. The school was established by the Brethren around 1947 in an attempt to bring education to this remote area. In 1950, another school to train pastors was started in Chibok. As the Brethren mission presence in Chibok came to a close in the mid-1970s the school was handed over to the Nigerian government. It was this school that Boko Haram insurgents raided and from which they carried off the 276 girls two years ago.

The interest this dastardly deed attracted is still strong today. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign includes Hollywood celebrities and even first lady Michelle Obama. The Church of the Brethren is continuing to stand up for these girls and many churches have adopted one of the girls to pray for each week.

Side-by-side maps of northeast Nigeria show (at left) the current status of areas that had been taken over by the Boko Haram insurgency, and at right a map of the former mission stations dating back to the years when the Church of the Brethren Mission was in its heyday in much the same area of Nigeria. This current map of the safe, semi-safe, and dangerous or “no go” zones in northeast Nigeria show how the influence of Boko Haram has been forced out of much of the area, but continues in particular in the areas around the city of Maiduguri. This map was created by Carl and Roxane Hill after their return from a recent trip to Nigeria.

Side-by-side maps of northeast Nigeria show (at left) the current status of areas that had been taken over by the Boko Haram insurgency, and at right a map of the former mission stations dating back to the years when the Church of the Brethren Mission was in its heyday in much the same area of Nigeria. This current map of the safe, semi-safe, and dangerous or “no go” zones in northeast Nigeria show how the influence of Boko Haram has been forced out of much of the area, but continues in particular in the areas around the city of Maiduguri. This map was created by Carl and Roxane Hill after their return from a recent trip to Nigeria.

Shortly after the abductions the Nigerian Brethren informed the Church of the Brethren that the majority of the schoolgirls were from EYN families. In May 2014, each Church of the Brethren congregation received a letter asking for prayer for the abducted girls--both Christian and Muslim. The letter included an enclosure with the names of 180 of the abducted girls. Each name on the list was assigned to six congregations for focused prayer.

While attending this year’s Majalisa or annual meeting of EYN, Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer plans to consult with EYN staff about the Chibok girls. He hopes to attempt to sift through the list of the names that was sent to the American Brethren, in order to find out more about what may be known of them.

As we continue to remember the Chibok girls, we hold out hope for their safety and look forward to the day when we can learn more about what has happened to them. Until then, we know that these girls and their parents are in God’s hands. Our prayer continues to be that God will deliver them and that one day soon they will be reunited with their loved ones.

For more information, see an interview from one of the escaped girls in the March 31, 2015, issue of Newsline at www.brethren.org/news/2015/interview-with-chibok-schoolgirl-who-escaped.html .

-- Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .

2) Special events, vigils mark second anniversary of Chibok abductions

Students at Mount Vernon Nazarene University are just one of the groups around the world who have been praying for the release of the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok. These students formed a prayer circle, Nigerian style, after hearing a presentation by Carl and Roxane Hill about the Chibok girls and the Nigeria Crisis Response.
Photo courtesy of Roxane and Carl Hill

Students at Mount Vernon Nazarene University are just one of the groups around the world who have been praying for the release of the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok. These students formed a prayer circle, Nigerian style, after hearing a presentation by Carl and Roxane Hill about the Chibok girls and the Nigeria Crisis Response.

Here is information about some of the special events and prayer vigils planned to commemorate this anniversary, including a first-ever memorial event at the school in Chibok for the parents and families that will integrate both Christian and Muslim faiths:

-- In Nigeria, in addition to the various prayer vigils that will be held in homes and churches, the government gave permission for a memorial event to be held at the school in Chibok. The event will include a prayer session integrating both Muslim and Christian faiths. The event is reported in African media at http://allafrica.com/stories/201604060978.html . Lawan Zanna, secretary of the Parents of the Abducted Girls from Chibok Association, said the government had agreed to give the parents access to the school that is heavily guarded, and all the parents of the missing girls are expected to attend.  “We have also invited all the government officials from Chibok and they also promised to allow any person from the media to join us,” said Zanna, whose 18-year-old daughter is among the missing girls.

-- In the United States, congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson is organizing several events at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and has invited a Chibok escapee to speak at a congregational forum and a press conference at the Capitol. An ongoing witness while Congress is in session has been dubbed “Wear Something Red Wednesday,” in which women wear red and hold up signs to ensure that the girls are not forgotten. Related vigils and events were held in Houston, Texas, on April 8 and 10, and are planned for Washington, D.C., on April 13 and 14; New York, N.Y., on April 15 and 16; and Silver Spring, Md., on April 16.

-- Today in Washington, D.C., Nathan Hosler, director of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, was a panelist at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Briefing on the Chibok anniversary. The event was in conjunction with Act4Accountability, Amnesty International USA, the Church of the Brethren, and the Congressional African Staff Association. The briefing titled “Nigeria after the Chibok Abductions: An Update on Human Rights and Governance” also included panelists Omolola Adele-Oso, co-founder and executive director of Act4Accountability; Madeline Rose, senior policy advisor for Mercy Corps; Lauren Ploch Blanchard, specialist in African Affairs, Congressional Research Service Moderator; and Carl Levan, assistant professor at the School of International Service, American University. Opening remarks were brought by congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson and congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

-- Nathan Hosler also will be one of the speakers at a vigil organized by Act4Accountability at a large Nigerian church near Washington, D.C., on April 14.

3) ‘Long Journey Home’ video updates Brethren about the Nigeria Crisis Response

The Long Journey Home video and poster - an update on the Nigeria Crisis Response for 2016.

By David Sollenberger

The Global Mission and Service office has released a new DVD which updates the Church of the Brethren about the Nigeria Crisis Response for 2016. The video called “The Long Journey Home” outlines what has been accomplished with funds raised by the church and mission partners during 2015, and provides a blueprint for the church’s support of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) for 2016.

It was filmed during a February 2016 trip I made to Nigeria along with Carl and Roxane Hill, co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response. The video provides footage of some areas of Nigeria not seen since the terror group Boko Haram overran much of the northeast of the country, forcing hundreds of thousands of Nigerians--including many EYN members--to flee their homes and communities.

The new DVD shares how some EYN members have since returned to their ravaged communities and are trying to rebuild their lives, with the help of the Church of the Brethren and the Nigeria Crisis Fund.

The DVD of “The Long Journey Home” is being mailed to each congregation in the Source packet, along with a poster report also called The Long Journey Home. Both are available through the Brethren Disaster Ministries office. The video program also is available on the Church of the Brethren Vimeo page at https://vimeo.com/162219031 .

It is hoped that churches will share this program with their members, as a reminder that while the 2016 response has changed somewhat, the crisis in Nigeria is far from over. Funds are urgently needed to provide seeds and fertilizer, housing, trauma healing workshops, education, and support for the thousands of women and children who have been widowed and orphaned by the deadly violence in Nigeria. The full video is 12 minutes long, but the DVD also includes a 6-minute version, as well as a 4-minute “quick look” at the Nigeria Crisis Response goals for 2016.

-- David Sollenberger is a Church of the Brethren videographer.

4) Fellowship tour to Nigeria is planned for August

A “Fellowship Tour” to Nigeria is planned for August with sponsorship from the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The tour will provide opportunities to listen to people’s stories and build relationships, minister to the most vulnerable, visit care centers for displaced people including an interfaith community, provide children’s activities at sponsored schools, and do peace and reconciliation work. Requirements for participation include having a caring heart, love for God’s people, good health, adaptability, and flexibility. For more information contact Donna Parcell at dparcell@comcast.net or 215-920-6292; or contact Nigeria Crisis Response co-director Carl Hill at 847-429-4361 or crhill@brethren.org .

5) United Nations notes sharp increase in use of child suicide bombers

The Associated Press reports a sharp increase in the use of child suicide bombers by Boko Haram in Nigeria, as cited by the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF. “The number of child bombers used by the Islamic extremists of Boko Haram has increased from four to 44,” said the AP reported, as published by ABC News. “Seventy-five percent of the children used are girls...emphasizing that these children, many believed captives, are ‘victims, not perpetrators.’” According to the West Africa director of UNICEF, as a result there is a new suspicion of children and this “can have destructive consequences: How can a community rebuild itself when it is casting out its own sisters, daughters and mothers?” The AP piece also mentioned results of a report from Mercy Corps, about the motivation for young people to join Boko Haram. See http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/child-bombers-boko-haram-increases-10-fold-unicef-38328006 . Find the UNICEF report titled “Beyond Chibok: Over 1.3 Million Children Uprooted by Boko Haram Violence” at www.unicef.org/media/files/Beyond_Chibok.pdf . Find the Mercy Corps report at www.mercycorps.org/articles/nigeria/new-report-investigates-youth-participation-boko-haram .

6) Live your life in the hand of God: An interview with Rebecca Dali

The following is excerpted from an interview with Rebecca Dali made during last year’s Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in July 2015. It was shortly after she had been able to go back home to Michika for the first time since Boko Haram had taken over the area, and then had been forced back out by the Nigerian military. Dali heads up CCEPI, a humanitarian nonprofit serving widows, orphans, and others affected by violence. Now there is significantly less violence than last summer, but Dali’s comments give insight into the suffering of many in Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and their Christian and Muslim neighbors. She shares about the spiritual foundations of her work, and helps explain how young Nigerian men are enticed into joining Boko Haram:

Dr. Rebecca Dali
Photo courtesy of Carl and Roxane Hill

Dr. Rebecca Dali

Newsline: What was it like to go back to your home and CCEPI’s office in Michika?

As I was going through the town there were some houses that Boko Haram destroyed, and I found the skeletons of some people in a house. For some, their homes became like graveyards for Boko Haram. One of my husband’s cousins, his house was full of graves, more than 20, and every grave had 5 or 6 people. It was really a horrible sight.

Our dog is very wild now because he has been eating dead bodies. I called the dog, he wouldn’t come. It was just horrible.

Some of the old people who refused to run away died in their homes of hunger. So I saw that too, and I was very, very angry.

Newsline: How do you deal with all of this?

I have attended several trauma healing seminars. My capacity has been improved, about how to absorb the shock. I have to grieve when there is something to grieve. I have to grieve, this is reality. But I cannot carry it with me. Afterward, I will pray and just let it go.

It is like taking care of the caregiver. I really gain my strength from the teachings [of the faith] and scripture, and how I will have boundaries. There are some imaginations that I will not go to. There are some times that I have to keep things to myself.

Newsline: Have you been putting your own life at risk by talking and meeting with victims?

I put my life at risk. Sometimes a woman will call me and tell me what is happening with her and there is no one near her, so I will just go.

There was one woman who was so pathetic. They killed her husband and her three sons--one was 22, one was 20, one was 18 years old. She was there alone and she was just lying in the blood. I had to take her to the bathroom, and bathe her, remove her dress. I had to call the police to come and attend to her. And they had to take the dead bodies to the mortuary. Even when I dressed her, she went back to the bodies and cried that they were still alive, so I had to attend to her again. Before people came I stayed there more than eight hours. If I did not go, I don’t know what would have happened to her.

Even some of my staff, they have their own stories. Some of their parents were killed, or their husband, so they are accustomed to doing all of this. They have the vision of saving people, and even taking risks.

Live your life in the hand of God. We love that verse: that he who saves his life, he will lose it, and he who loses his life helping someone, God will save it and help him or her.

Newsline: I am in awe of your strength to do this--your strength of character.

Hmm! It was built when I was small. We lived in a very hard time, in a leprosy colony. You know, when the whole community despises your parents, even as children we were also downgraded and downtrodden. We [children] didn’t have leprosy but in the community we were like outcasts.

But then my mother said, “Don’t allow yourself to be demoralized and humiliated. God made you in his own image.” So she told us even if the children say, “You so-and-so,” you say, “If my mother has leprosy that does not mean that God has deterred her. She is still loved by God.”

So she taught us to be very strong and not to allow anybody to condemn us. She said, “Just look to God. With God everything is possible.”

She has a cross and a verse that says, “Cast all your cares upon Jesus because he cares for you.” Early in the morning we would turn to the cross and pray and commit everything, and say, “Okay Jesus, you said to everybody that you are the one who will take care of us.”

From Jesus we gain our strength. We pray always, we read the Bible, and we commit ourselves to him. Even if you die now or tomorrow, if you die in Christ, then no problem. And if you die on the way of helping others, it is a rewarding death.

You know, 75 percent of my family, they are Muslims. I grew up among the Muslims. After returning back from the [leprosy] colony, my parents’ farm had been taken away. So we did not stay close to our village and my father bought another piece of land. At that time the government did this segregation of lepers, saying that leprosy will spread among the people--the law allowed it. So we stayed among the Muslims, and I know how to recite the creed, and learned a lot of things [about Islam]. So I am not afraid of them.

Newsline: Have you learned who the Boko Haram are? They are young men, usually.

Very young.

Newsline: How do these young men become Boko Haram?

You know, they enter the community, we are living among them. Some are our relatives.

When the Boko Haram came, maybe two or three people would come as visitors from Maiduguri and sneak in and stay among the Muslims. And then they would start by giving loans to people, and gradually they would attract the youth.

They started by registration. If you want to enter this social group, register and you can get a loan. But then you have to pay back the loan within some certain period. If you can you will pay, if you don’t there is work for you. If you start the work, and you join in, you will take the money for free.

The poverty is too much. For some of the young people, if you give them N10,000 [the Naira is the Nigerian currency, currently N200 equals about $1] or N20,000 or even N100,000, it is a huge amount of money! Even if the parents say, “Don’t enter any group,” they will not listen because their parents don’t have this huge amount of money to give them.

In Michika, for example, Boko Haram knew that the people trade and know how to do a market. If you give a Michika man N50,000, after a year he can turn it into over N100,000. They are good businesspeople. So Boko Haram went there with a huge amount of money and started registering them, and giving loans. Some would get N500,000, some N1,000,000 loans. And one who was only driving a motorcycle, before you know it he will buy a used car, and then he will build a house.

Boko Haram will have a meetingplace and at 12 midnight everybody will meet, and they will distribute the guns. They will say, “Okay, for this loan we have given to you, you will work. Your work is to shoot, and if you shoot the gun then the war will start. If you do not participate, that is all.”

Boko Haram did this in several villages, living among people, distributing guns. Soon they announced that at a certain time, they would start the war. Everybody was in church and they heard guns shooting, and they discovered that their brothers were actually among the Boko Haram.

This is the way Boko Haram gets their members, through money, through gifts. They will start sometimes by giving employment to a lot of youths, this is how they draft young people.

And a huge membership is by kidnapping. They will go and surround a whole area, and they will get the young people, the girls. In their camps they will do all sorts of things to them, and then they [the girls] will come back as warriors and fight.

When I went back to my office in Michika, I saw a lot of dresses of young girls. I have a neighbor who did not run away and the Boko Haram did not kill him. He told me that Boko Haram used our office in Michika because we have a lot of chairs, mattresses for volunteers, foodstuffs, so it was a great place for them. He said they kidnapped a lot of girls and kept them in our office. He said they forced them to wear the hijab. That was why the dresses were still there. When I went and saw this, I really cried, I wept because of what my neighbor said.

Newsline: Where does the Boko Haram leadership get all this money?

We learned that the Arab countries helped them. And some of the Nigerian politicians, the Muslims, are funding them and giving them a lot of support. And if you are afraid that they will kill you....

Newsline: Do you have an idea of how many people CCEPI has aided?

Yes, 450,000 as of the time I left Nigeria. I think that while I have been here [in the United States for the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir tour and Annual Conference] they have ministered to more than 10,000 people.

Newsline: Your staff must be incredible people.

They work day and night.

-- CCEPI is one of the Nigerian nonprofit organizations receiving support from the Nigeria Crisis Response. Find out more at www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .


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Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Carl and Roxane Hill, Nathan Hosler, David Sollenberger, Jay Wittmeyer, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for April 15.

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