Newsline Special for December 3, 2008

December 3, 2008

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008”

“…And pray for one another…” (James 5:16b).


Nigerian Brethren have requested prayer following an outbreak of sectarian violence sparked by a disputed political election in the town of Jos, in central Nigeria. Hundreds of people have been killed, and many buildings including churches and mosques have been burned. News reports have quoted Red Cross statements that as many as 25,000 people have fled their homes to shelter in makeshift camps, government buildings, army barracks, churches, and mosques.

“We have received multiple reports from Nigeria. We are very concerned,” said Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger. “We are staying in contact with our staff in Nigeria and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria leaders. We have been asked to lift up the EYN church in prayer.”

The violence was perpetrated by angry mobs of youth, according to news reports–and both Christians and Muslims have suffered from the violence. Central Nigeria is an area where sectarian religious and ethnic divisions between the north and the south of the country meet and sometimes collide. Similar rioting occurred previously in Jos in 2001, when some 1,000 people were killed.

Jos is the site of congregations of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) as well as some of the church’s administrative buildings located at two compounds including a guest house and a property called Boulder Hill. Church of the Brethren mission coordinator David Whitten and his wife, Judith, live at the Boulder Hill compound. At the time the violence began on the night of Friday, Nov. 28, the Whittens were traveling out of town, and have not yet returned to Jos.

Jos also is the location of Hillcrest School, an interdenominational mission school that was begun by the Church of the Brethren. Located near to Jos is the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN), with which EYN and the Church of the Brethren have partnered in theological education for pastors and church leaders.

Reports about the situation of EYN in Jos have been mixed. R. Jan Thompson, interim director of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships, has been in virtually daily contact with EYN leaders in Jos and is monitoring the situation closely. Markus Gamache, the EYN manager in Jos, is beginning a series of personal visits to all the EYN congregations and properties in the area over the next few days. He hopes to be able to provide a fuller report on the status of the congregations and their members by the end of the week.

In the meantime, Noffsinger repeated the call to prayer for Nigeria after consulting with mission staff this morning. “Pray for peace,” he asked.

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