More Nigerian Brethren Die in Violent Attacks, US Workcampers Return Home Safely

Photo by Jay Wittmeyer
A symbol of hope for Nigeria: bright flowers spring up in burnt earth. This photo was taken by Global Mission and Service executive director Jay Wittmeyer during his recent trip to Nigeria.

More Nigerian Brethren have died in violent attacks on churches of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The LCC Samunaka church on the outskirts of the city of Mubi was attacked twice in four days, first on Feb. 1 and again on Feb. 4. At least 15 people were killed in the attacks, including eight members of the congregation, while one member of the church sustained gun shot wounds said an EYN report.

During the attacks, the Samunaka church building and the pastor’s office were burned down, along with some houses belonging to Christians. Two EYN churches in other areas were burned in attacks on the same weekend: LCC Huwim in the Mussa district was burned on Feb. 2, and LCC Bita in the Gavva west district was burned on Feb. 3, the EYN report said.

These most recent attacks on Brethren occur in a month in which northern Nigeria has experienced several well-publicized attacks by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram: the murders of three North Korean doctors and nine nurses who were administering polio vaccine, and an assassination attempt on the Emir of Kano, a prominent Muslim leader.

Two visitors from the US church were in Mubi on the day of the first attack on the Samunaka church, but had returned to the EYN headquarters just a few miles away before the violence occurred. The two were on a “mini workcamp” representing the US church: Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service, and Fern Dews of North Canton, Ohio, and East Nimishillen Church of the Brethren. They returned safely to the US on Feb. 7.

The two delivered cards and letters of support to EYN, expressing prayer and encouragement from American Brethren to Nigerian Brethren in the face of the continuing violence. The Church of the Brethren also has transferred to EYN donations amounting to $30,268.25, for a fund that helps care for churches and members affected by violence.

Wittmeyer met with EYN leaders during the workcamp trip, and also with Church of the Brethren mission workers who are seconded to EYN: Carol Smith, who teaches at the EYN secondary school, and Carl and Roxane Hill, working at Kulp Bible College. Both institutions are on the EYN headquarters campus.

In addition to those lost in violent attacks against its churches, EYN has suffered other losses recently. The director of EYN’s Peace Program has died from illness, reports Wittmeyer, and a son of former EYN president Filibus Gwama has died in a car accident. A bus carrying EYN women home from that funeral also had a serious accident, causing injuries among the women but no deaths, Wittmeyer said.

Wittmeyer called Brethren in the US to continued prayer for the Nigerian Brethren.

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