This report is provided by Cliff Kindy, a Church of the Brethren volunteer working in Nigeria with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), from an interview with a Nigerian woman who escaped from Boko Haram-held territory in northeast Nigeria. Kindy is volunteering with the Nigeria crisis response, a cooperative effort of EYN, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Church of the Brethren in the United States:
Last July the small community of Wagga was attacked by the Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist insurgent group. Over 300 of these terrorists came into the village riding on motorbikes and in cars. Most of the Christians fled the village realizing that they would become the primary targets if they stayed.
After a few days, the Boko Haram returned and burned the churches in Wagga and did the same in the larger community of Madagali, which is close by. Although EYN is the largest church presence in this region, not only were EYN churches destroyed but also those belonging to the Church of Christ in Nigeria, Assemblies of God, and the Roman Catholics. There were eight EYN churches burned. The Boko Haram militants settled in Madagali leaving only a small contingent in Wagga.
Since it was just Muslims left in Wagga, Boko Haram called all the Muslim men, “Come, let us pray together.” They issued an ultimatum, “Who would like to join us?” A handful agreed to join. The rest asked for time to consider the invitation until the next day. Boko Haram immediately took nearly 200 of the men, old and young, to a large hall.
They were separated into groups of ten. The first ten were killed with an ax, the next ten killed with a cutlass and the third group killed with a gun. Then the process was repeated over and over. Later one of each ten was granted “mercy” and so fled. The most elderly were spared and those under 15 were incorporated into Boko Haram and trained as new fighting recruits. The slaughter led some who had volunteered to reconsider and later escape.
In Wagga the small Muslim community had prayed five times each day. They removed their shoes and washed their feet before praying as do most Muslims. Boko Haram prays just once each day, about seven in the morning, and leaves their shoes on while praying.
Boko Haram did not kill the women when they came to Wagga, but took all the food from the houses leaving nothing for the women. Sarah (not her real name) was a single parent farmer, growing groundnuts, red and white beans, and maize. Now she was rarely able to leave her home. When she did she was required to so cover her head that neighbors could barely recognize her or she them. The few Christian women still in Wagga made a pact with the Muslim men who remained that they would live together, not as married couples but as cover from Boko Haram. Those men were able to slip away at times to grind grain for the women to eat.
Sarah is a Christian, but whether Christian or Muslim, living conditions for women were horrible. She and three other women would meet together for prayer whenever the men went out. Her prayer was always, “God, how can I escape to the mountains?”
When Boko Haram first raided Wagga Sarah had fled to safety in the mountains. She returned when she realized her 13-year-old mentally challenged daughter was missing. She remained in Wagga for the sake of her daughter who was later brutally raped by Boko Haram in the six intervening months. The population of Wagga and Madagali has now almost evaporated to only about 200 people in the two communities.
The day after Christmas Sarah awakened at 11 in the night and a vision told her to run for safety. She and one of her friends, who agreed to join her, fled to the mountains. Surprisingly they found 43 other women and 2 men who had similarly fled from other places. They crossed safely into Cameroon to Mokolo village where they found some immediate assistance. Then again as a group they crossed the border and found refuge in Yola. From there Sarah came to Jos where her brother has been caring for two of her young children who had escaped in July. She does not know whether her daughter is still alive but she does praise God for the chance to again see her people.
— This is the most recent story from Nigeria posted on the Church of the Brethren’s new Nigeria blog. The blog also features daily devotions from EYN. Find the blog at https://www.brethren.org/testblog/category/nigeria . To contribute to the Nigeria Crisis Fund to support the crisis response effort, go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .