Two leading members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have sent reports detailing recent violence and continuing relief efforts to aid refugees and those fleeing violent attacks by the Boko Haram insurgent group. Reports have been received from Rebecca Dali, who heads up an NGO aiding survivors and who represented EYN at the 2014 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, and Markus Gamache who serves as EYN staff liaison.
Following are excerpts from their reports. Readers are warned that some details about the violence are graphic and may be disturbing:
Insurgent attacks are ‘getting worse’
The insurgents continued killing and bombing people, burning churches, and vandalizing and destroying property, according to a report from Rebecca Dali. “Nigerian violence is getting worse,” she wrote, in a report that detailed the deaths of many EYN members and the destruction of churches. “Continue to pray for us.”
— June 30: insurgents blocked the only terrain road to Gavva West, Ngoshe, and other places.
— July 6 and 13: insurgents attacked Chibok villages of Kwada and Kautikari during church services, killing 72 and 52 people respectively.
— July 14: an attack on Dille killed almost all the men in church, 52. Dali added: “One woman they kidnapped three of her children and killed her husband. They took her six-month baby boy and throw him on fire.”
— July 18: a woman who was forced to go with the insurgents to treat their patients refused. “They cut off her head and placed it on her back,” Dali wrote, and included a photo of the body.
— July 26: in Shaffa three people were killed and the insurgents took cars.
— July 27: seven people were killed in Kingking and Zak.
— July 28: in Garkida, which was the first mission point of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, insurgents killed four soldiers and three other people.
— July 30: Boko Haram went to five villages and burnt their churches, including Kwajaffa 1 and 2, Kurbutu, Tasha Alade, Man Jankwa.
— Early August: Four female suicide bombers blew themselves up and killed many people.
— Also earlier this month: the Boko Haram militants overran and took over the town of Gwoza, killing at least 100 people.
Dali’s report included news of the destruction and loss of a number of EYN church buildings and parsonages. She reported that part of EYN Dille No. 1 and 2 Churches, and the EYN Pastorium in Dille were burned.
The attack on Garkida may have occurred on July 27, according to Gamache’s report. Garkida is the place where the Church of the Brethren was first started in Nigeria in 1923. Residents of Garkida believe the attack was launched on the town to find a chief who fled there for refuge from Kilba land, Gamache said. “One watchman was killed who is attached to the military house in Garkida. Police station was burnt, one house was partly destroyed.
Report from the Gwoza attack
Jauro Markus Gamache provided details about the insurgent attack on the town of Gwoza, which is located in northeastern Nigeria near the border with Cameroon.
“Greetings from people in refugee camps and myself,” he wrote, in part. “About three days now since Boko Haram took over the whole main town of Gwoza. This recent attack led the Emir of Gwoza to escape to unknown destination…. Some people thought that he was kidnapped by the group but we still have some hope that he is hiding somewhere in Maiduguri.
“They killed more than 100 people in Gwoza main town, mostly Muslims.” A Muslim man who rescued the EYN DCC (district) secretary for Gwoza, Shawulu T. Zigla, was killed by insurgents. “I was told by EYN church assistant pastor in Jos that they group killed that Muslim for doing that,” Gamache reported.
Among Christian leaders who were murdered was a woman leader from a COCIN church (formerly Church of Christ in Nigeria, now Church of Christ in All Nation).
Gwoza is near Gamache’s home village, and he added that an elderly many who was a distant relative, Zakariya Yakatank, also was killed during an attack on the nearby Limankara. “They killed four solders in Limankara, which helped my people to run away during the intense fight between the Boko Haram, military, mobile police.”
The insurgent group burned most of the homes in Gwoza including the Emir’s palace, and government buildings including the local government secretariat. “More houses belonging to Muslims were destroyed,” Gamache wrote.
Churches were destroyed in the attack. The local Muslim community had attempted to protect the Gwoza EYN Church and the Catholic Church which were close by, “but during this attack they [the insurgents] did not spare any body,” he added.
His report highlighted the needs of refugees, including a Muslim woman who called him “crying on phone because of fear and lack of enough food. One of her sons is sick and her husband is taking care of the sick in the hospital so she is left at home with the little ones.”
More Muslims from Gwoza have been fleeing into the town of Madagali, and more Christians from Madagali, Wagga, and other villages are “running further for safety,” he wrote. “All this took place after the government sent thousands of solders into the bush.”
Relief efforts include aid to Muslim widows
“Despite all the challenges we still meet to discuss how CCEPI through its Christian and Muslim Dialogue Peace Initiatives will bring peace in Nigeria,” Rebecca Dali wrote. She heads up CCEPI, a nonprofit organization that Dali founded in order to aid widows and orphans who have lost husbands and parents in the violence, as well as refugees and families who have been displaced.
CCEPI has continued to distribute relief goods to widows who have lost husbands–and often children–in attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents. The photos she provided with her report showed a roomful of people displaced by the attacks in the Dille and Chibok areas, and widows from Dille and Chibok who received aid from CCEPI.
In photos of car- and truckloads of relief goods for distribution, was a picture of a pick up truck loaded down with sewing machines to help widows earn a living.
Dali also provided photos of a meeting of Christian and Muslim women sponsored by CCEPI’s Christian Muslim Dialogue Peace Initiatives (CCMDPI).
An interfaith group in Jos has been sharing aid with Muslims affected by the violence, Gamache reported. “All the Muslim community I visited are really grateful for all the support from the Church of the Brethren because I always tell them the source of my salary, water project, donation to EYN in general, and your visits/meetings to Muslim communities.”
The interfaith group in Jos, called Lifeline Compassionate Global Initiatives, has delivered items to widows and the less privilege among the Muslim community. The group “is enjoying the cooperation of faithful Muslims to create public awareness to embrace peace,” Gamache reported.
In a set of photos that Gamache sent with his report, the chief imam of a Muslim community in Anguwan Rogo received a presentation from the interfaith group, and offered prayers for peace and for the two faiths to love one another.
He also sent pictures from a visit to refugee facilities on the outskirts of Abuja, which have been provided to refugee families with help from the EYN church in Abuja and its pastor, Musa Abdullahi Zuwarva. The pastor donated the place for the refugees to live, and Gamache is involved in supporting them.
“We will support in putting what we can to help the refugees have a little comfort, more especially for the sake of children,” he said.
In the photos, two families are shown using an uncompleted building. The families fled from Gavva in Gwoza Local Government area near the eastern border with Cameroon, to Nassarawa State, and finally to Abuja, “running for life,” Gamache wrote.
“Both Muslims and Christians are always on the run. Since the Emir of Gwoza was killed many village heads, district heads are under attack.”
He added news of two prominent Nigerians targeted in Kano in late July, Sheik Dahiru Bauchi and former president of Nigeria Mohammed Buhari. “This has created mixed feelings to both Christians and Muslims, to where is this violence leading the country,” he wrote. “Sheik Dahiru Bauchi delivered a speech at Government House Kano on June 27, when the Governor of Kano Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso called us for prayers and mutual relationship among the interfaith workers. I was privileged to listen to Sheik Dahiru who always condemn the work of Boko Haram.”
Peace by peaceful means
In reflections which he titled, “Peace by Peaceful Means,” Gamache noted the Christian scriptures from Matthew 5:43-47, in which Jesus teaches about loving enemies, and Romans 12:18, and a Muslim text from Quran 45 that “also emphasized about forgiving and loving your enemies.”
“How do we transform our enemies to be our friends?” he asked. “Only by love and forgiveness. Islam and Christianity are a way of life that is believed to take you to heaven (Aljana) but…the two faiths have bad eggs who want to satisfy their emotions, madness, and personal frustration in life. The work of interfaith on the [Jos] Plateau has really helped me to understand the love from both sides.”