Statements on Nigeria Violence Issued by WCC and Christian Association of Nigeria

Church of the Brethren Newsline
Aug. 5, 2009

Two ecumenical bodies–the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Association of Nigeria–have issued statements on the recent violence in northeastern Nigeria. Also, updates have been received from members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) — see story below.

WCC sends letter to Nigerian President

The WCC has called on the Nigerian government to ensure the safety of all its citizens, according to a release from the organization. WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia in a letter to Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sent on Aug. 4, has urged the government to “ensure the safety of all citizens” as well as to see that “all perpetrators (of) acts of violence and human rights violations are brought to justice.”

The letter responds to the recent outbreak of violence in the city of Maiduguri and other areas of northeastern Nigeria following clashes between a militant Islamist group and security forces. Some 800 people were killed, including “more than 50 Christians,” while “at least 13 churches (…) have been destroyed,” according to the WCC release. Two EYN congregations were among those affected by violence in Maiduguri, and several Brethren members in Maiduguri were injured or killed (see the Newsline Special Report of July 29).

Kobia also wrote to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “We condemn and deplore such wanton acts of violence,” his letter to CAN said. The WCC release noted that Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, with the northern population being mainly followers of Islam and Christians being more numerous in the south.

Regretting that “inter-communal violence has already claimed the lives of more than 12,000 Nigerians during the past decade,” Kobia stated in his letter to the Nigerian president that “the reasons for this violence are rooted in politics rather than religion.” Among the factors that “push the country towards violence and insecurity,” he listed: “Widespread poverty, corruption, poor governance, and political instability,” as well as “abuses by the security forces, including extra-judicial killings and torture.”

Commending some “promising” governmental initiatives regarding police reform and the investigation of a 2008 incident of inter-communal violence, Kobia pointed out: “These initiatives have yet to make a tangible impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians who are constantly facing blatant violations of their human and fundamental rights.”

Go to  for the full text of Kobia’s letter to the Nigerian president. Go to  for his letter to the Christian Association of Nigeria.

Christian Association of Nigeria makes statement on violence

According to Ecumenical News International (ENI, which is related to the WCC) in a report issued on Aug. 4, “Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria have appealed against any act that can further inflame tensions in the north of Africa’s most populous nation.”

A follow up release on Aug. 5 said that, “The Christian Association of Nigeria has criticized the killing of an Islamic leader whose followers set off riots in northern Nigeria that claimed hundreds of lives and caused extensive property damage.”

The releases reported that the violence in northeastern Nigeria in late July included violent protests by Boko Haram, an Islamist sect that says it represents Islam and is seeking the total incorporation of Muslim religious laws; the launch of a full-scale military onslaught by the Nigerian armed forces on July 30 against followers of Boko Haram; and the arrest of the group’s leader Yusuf Mohamed, who later died while in custody.

The Nigerian president has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Yusuf Mohamed, according to ENI. “Police say he was killed in a gunfight, but a senior army officer said the Boko Haram leader had been alive when he was captured and turned over to authorities.”

Updates provided by EYN members in Maiduguri

Updates from EYN members in Maiduguri report that the EYN Maiduguri (No. 1) Church resumed worship on Sunday, Aug. 2, with a service held outdoors after its sanctuary was bombed. (See photo album showing before and after pictures from the EYN Maiduguri Church.)

The reports also added more tragic news, that the total number of deaths may have risen to 1,000 or more, including “the military personnel, the police, Christians, and the sect members.” Also, the number of Christian pastors killed in Maiduguri has risen to three. None of the pastors who have died were Brethren, although the assistant pastor of the EYN Jajeri Church was injured.

The two pastors killed in addition to COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria) Pastor Sabo, whose death was reported in the Newsline of July 29, were the pastor of a National Evangelical Mission who was reported to be severely injured in the violence and died after having been taken to a medical clinic; and Pastor George Orji of Goodnews Church Maiduguri, who was reported to have been killed after having been abducted along with other Christians.

An EYN church leader who is a former chairperson of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Borno State Branch, sent information about peacemaking efforts by church leaders in recent years. He has been among those calling on the government to help establish a forum where Muslim and Christian clerics could meet, and to sanction those whose preaching incites violence. These kinds of efforts to foster peaceful interreligious relationships have taken place in areas especially “where EYN has played a significant role,” he wrote.

His e-mail also questioned the government’s promptness in responding to problems confronting the country, and its willingness to act “in an unbiased manner.”

Go to  for a photo album of the destruction to EYN Maiduguri Church.

Go to  for more information about the Church of the Brethren work with EYN in Nigeria.

Go to  for a way to help support EYN.

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact  to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

Brethren in the News

“Extreme Makeover volunteers work throughout the night,” Dayton (Ohio) Daily News (Aug. 2, 2009). Church of the Brethren member Gay Mercer is serving as the architect for a home makeover in Beavercreek, Ohio, according to a report from Mack Memorial Church of the Brethren in Dayton. The television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is constructing the home for the Terpenning family. For an online article on the project go to

Photo albums are available at  and

Obituary: Brigitte H. Olmstead, Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va. (Aug. 2, 2009). Brigitte H. Olmstead, 67, of Fredericksburg, Va., died on July 31 at her residence with her husband at her side. She was born Dec. 28, 1941, in Berlin, Germany. She leaves behind her husband of 42 years, Larry Olmstead. A celebration of life service will be held Aug. 5 at Hollywood Church of the Brethren in Fredericksburg, Va.

Obituary: Hollie J. McCutcheon, News Leader, Staunton, Va. (July 31, 2009). Hollie J. McCutcheon passed away at Salem (Va.) Hospital on July 29. He was retired from working for McQuay in Verona, Va. He is survived by his wife, Jo Ann C. McCutcheon. A memorial service will be held Aug. 3 at White Hill Church of the Brethren in Stuarts Draft, Va.

“Called to serve,” Waterloo Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier (July 30, 2009). “The desire to do full-time ministry came later in life. Or perhaps, mused the Rev. David Whitten, it took him several decades to notice it,” reports an article on the new ministry by David Whitten and his wife, Judith, at South Waterloo Church of the Brethren in Iowa. “It was really pretty much a strong sense of calling,” Whitten said. Originally from Virginia, he has served two stints as a mission worker in Africa and put in 10 years as a pastor.

“Church offers food relief program,” Carroll County (Ind.) Comet (July 29, 2009). Living Faith Church of the Brethren in Flora, Ind., is helping people reduce food costs through the nonprofit organization, Angel Food Ministries. The church started offering the program to help people in these tough economic times. The purpose of the national ministry is to provide quality, nutritious food at significant discounts.

 “Wedding procession at ELCA church a YouTube sensation,” The Lutheran (July 24, 2009). Church of the Brethren minister Jeannine Leonard presided over a wedding that has become a YouTube sensation. The wedding was held at Christ Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn. The couple have become instant celebrities thanks to a video of their unconventional dance down the aisle, which they posted on YouTube in order to share it with family and friends. “The Lutheran” magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) reported that the wedding of Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz took place on June 20, and by July 24 there were more than 1.5 million views of the five-minute aisle dance. The wedding party was scheduled to do an encore of the dance for the Today Show on July 25.

View the video at

Obituary: Odell B. Reynolds, News Leader, Staunton, Va. (July 20, 2009). Odell Byers Reynolds, 83, of Buena Vista, died on July 18 at her home in Stuarts Draft, Va. She was a life long member of Oronoco Church of the Brethren in Vesuvius, Va. She was retired from Kenney’s in Buena Vista. She was preceded in death by her first husband, H. Warren Byers, and her second husband Harry Reynolds.

“From compost to gardens for new vegetables,” Reporter News, North Penn, Pa. (July 19, 2009). Peter Becker Community, a Church of the Brethren retirement community in Franconia, Pa., is reaping tasty new rewards for recycling. Its dining service, Cura Hospitality, has begun on-site composting, with the final result to be used for the residents’ vegetable gardens. “So far it’s been very successful,” said Bill Richman, the Cura general manager.

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