A Round Up of Responses to Nigeria’s Crisis

Painting by Brian Meyer
This painting by artist Brian Meyer of First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif., came out of his concern for the kidnapped girls. He explains that painting this was a way for him to pray on their behalf.

— Resources that may help church members and congregations consider how to respond to the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok, Nigeria, are posted at www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/chibok-resources.html . Links take readers to Annual Conference statements on modern-day slavery and child exploitation as well as peacemaking and nonviolence and humanitarian intervention, relevant United Nations statements on the rights of the child and protection of women and children in armed conflict, the World Council of Churches’ call to just peace, and advocacy resources on modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

— “We Built a School in Boko Haram’s Heartland” is the title of an interview with Gerald and Lois Neher, former Church of the Brethren mission workers in Chibok, Nigeria, now living in Kansas. The interview by Michael Daly was published today by The Daily Beast. “The very opposite of terrorists arrived in Chibok more than a half-century before the world came to know this remote Nigerian village as the place where maniacal members of Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 girls and burned down their school. While the terrorist group struck in recent days intending only evil, Gerald and Lois Neher of Kansas came to Chibok in 1954 with the purpose of doing as much good as they were able. They helped make it possible for girls to attend school there in the first place,” read the in depth interview, in part. It reviews the Neher’s work in Chibok beginning in 1954, and the Church of the Brethren early mission involvement there. Read it at www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/13/we-built-a-school-in-boko-haram-s-heartland.html .

— Gerald Neher has published a book about Chibok and its people, “Life Among the Chibok of Nigeria.” The large paperback tome is an extensive record of what Gerald and his wife, Lois, learned about the Chibok during their time as Church of the Brethren mission workers in the 1950s and 1960s. The author “listened to the elders speak about their land, their lineage, their ethos, their farming, religious beliefs, kinship, and much more,” says a description of the book. “He wrote the book so that the Chibok people would have a record of their past and their present as devastating changes have overtaken them.” Copies are available to purchase from Gerald Neher by calling 620-504-6078.

— WSBT Channel 22 Mishawaka has covered the prayer effort at Nappanee (Ind.) Church of the Brethren on behalf of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok, Nigeria, by Boko Haram. “Church members say they hope the United States will help resolve this peacefully without military action,” the report said. Pastor Byrl Shaver was interviewed as well as Carol Waggy, who spent five years in Nigeria, and spent time in the area where these girls were kidnapped. “To have that personal connection made it even more heartbreaking,” she said. Find the WSBT coverage at www.wsbt.com/news/local/local-churches-pray-for-nigerian-girls/25942368 .

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Several staff gather in the Nigeria prayer room at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.

— A prayer room for Nigeria has been established at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., so that denominational staff may join together in the prayer which Nigerian Brethren have requested. In the room as aids to prayer are copies of the Daily Prayer Guide written by Annual Conference moderator Nancy S. Heishman, Bibles, hymnals, prayer cards with the girls’ names, a prayer journal for participants to write down thoughts and prayers. Associate general secretary Mary Jo Flory-Steury created the special prayer space.

— Church of the Brethren districts also have called their congregations to prayer for Nigeria. In Western Pennsylvania District, district executive Ronald Beachley sent an e-mail to congregations encouraging them to plan prayer vigils on May 11, Mother’s Day, or another suitable day, and announced that he would fast that day as another encouragement to prayer for the kidnapped schoolgirls. The e-mail closed with “Be joyful in hope; patient in affliction; faithful in prayer.”

— Among the many congregations that have been praying for Nigeria, a number have posted Facebook notes or photos from special events during this past week. Marla Bieber Abe of Carlisle (Pa.) Church of the Brethren posted, “Dear EYN, I want you to know that the Church of the Brethren in Carlisle prayed for the missing girls, their families, and churches this morning in worship. I am sure we were not the only church! God can do wonders!”  At San Diego (Calif.) First Church of the Brethren, Sunday saw the lighting of a candle in support and prayer for the 200-plus young women who were kidnapped–along with a baby dedication and celebration of Mother’s Day. The San Diego Church plans a Prayer Circle for Nigeria on Saturday, May 17, at 6:30 p.m., that will include music, readings, prayers, litanies, and opportunity to share in meditation.

Photo courtesy of Stevens Hill Community Church
Stevens Hill Community Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa., included concern for the kidnapped girls in the congregation’s Mothers Day worship on may 11. “Praying for all the mothers and families in the EYN Church in Nigeria,” said Ann Bach, who sent in this photo.

— “Local prayer vigil held for girls kidnapped in Nigeria” was the title of a piece from Fox News Channel 28 in South Bend, Ind., on May 7, when Church of the Brethren members gathered at the Goshen City Church for a prayer vigil. “We have long and strong ties with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria and it really does feel like this has hit our family,” Madalyn Metzger told the news team. See the video report at www.fox28.com/story/25459278/2014/05/07/local-prayer-vigil-held-for-girls-kidnapped-in-nigeria .

— Janet Mitchell, a member of Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., organized a prayer vigil that was reported in an article in the Fort Wayne “Journal Gazette” on May 10. Members of area churches gathered at the Allen County Courthouse Green on Saturday morning to pray for the kidnapped girls. The event was for people of all faiths, and was joined by members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the local chapter of the NAACP. “‘Do not be afraid; Our love is stronger than your fear,’ the men and women sang, as the youngest attendee, Maya Koczan-Flory, 3, drew two hearts on the sidewalk for two of the girls who have died,” said the news report. Find it at www.journalgazette.net/article/20140510/LOCAL/140519970 .

— The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) of the United Methodist Church has posted a prayer for the missing Nigeria schoolgirls, titled “Give us courage to end hate and free the oppressed.” Find the prayer online at http://umc-gbcs.org/faith-in-action/a-prayer-for-the-missing-nigerian-schoolgirls .

— The United Church of Christ has distributed an action alert titled, “JPANet: Act to end violence against women and children in Nigeria and throughout the world!” The alert read, in part: “Our faith compels us to reach for more holistic and sustained solutions for this and the other incidents like it, which take place with alarming frequency, often without the world’s notice. The grave reality remains that this kidnapping is part of a larger global crisis in which gender-based violence continues to occur in every country around the world on a daily basis. We cannot stand by while women and girls are used as tools of war and continue to experience violence!” It called for support for a bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) which has been reintroduced in the Senate and would make ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic and foreign assistance priority.

Photo courtesy of Skippack Church

— Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger was interviewed May 8 by Elena Ferrarin of the “Daily Herald,” a newspaper covering the western suburbs of Chicago, Ill. Noffsinger spoke about the connection with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, and the call for Brethren across the US and Puerto Rico to engage in prayer and fasting. “We mailed letters to our congregations with the names of the girls. Each girl’s name was sent to six congregations so they could focus their prayer,” Noffsinger said. “We have been in constant communication with the church leadership in Nigeria.” Read the interview at www.dailyherald.com/article/20140507/news/140508593 .

—  A sermon by Tripp Hudgins, published in the Sojourners God’s Politics Blog on May 5, quotes from general secretary Stan Noffsinger’s comments from a National Council of Churches release about the girls’ kidnapping. The sermon titled, “In the Breaking #bringbackourgirls,” reflects on the initial lack of media coverage of the kidnapping, and his feeling of being “simply heartbroken and astonished” on finally hearing the news, in light of the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as their eyes were opened to Jesus’ presence. “I had always thought that the burning hearts was a good thing. And it is. But it’s good in the way that it tells the truth, the way that the scales are lifted from our eyes and we see the world for what it truly is and not the fantasy I would make of it. It is in the breaking that we hear the truth. It is in the breaking that we come to understand.” Hudgins goes on to quote Noffsinger, “We are grateful for the prayers of millions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews around the world. We pray God’s unconditional love will touch the consciences of the men who did this.” Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. Find his sermon at http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/05/05/sermon-breaking-bringbackourgirls .

— The world’s largest Muslim organization has denounced the kidnapping of the schoolgirls as “a gross misinterpretation of Islam,” according to media reports. The statement was made by a research institute and human rights committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, based in Saudi Arabia. “This crime and other crimes carried out by such extremist organizations negate all human principles and moral values and stand in contradiction to the clear teachings of the blessed Qur’an and the rightful examples set by the Prophet (Mohammad),” the OIC’s International Islamic Fiqh Academy said. “The secretariat of the academy, shocked by this ugly act, strongly demands the immediate release of these innocent girls without causing any harm to any of them.”

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]