By Carl Hill
The response to the Nigeria crisis from the Church of the Brethren has been nothing short of spectacular. Over the last 16 months we have been able to provide support for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and five NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).
However, the devastation and trauma inflicted in Nigeria continues to be felt as the insurgency wanes and security is being restored. Unfortunately, the giving from the church has slowed down. Currently we are $300,000 short of meeting our projected $2,166,000 budget for this year.
Recent reports from Nigeria have indicated that the terrorist group known as Boko Haram has been crippled because of joint military action waged by the Nigerian military and troops from neighboring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. Boko Haram is still claiming responsibility for suicide bombings, primarily in northeast Nigeria and a few in Cameroon. After a slow start in 2015, the military has severely damaged Boko Haram’s offensive power, has killed and captured many of the terrorists, and chased many of the remaining members away from towns and villages and into the area called the Sambisa Forest. This large unincorporated area served as the base of operations for Boko Haram’s earlier strikes but is now its only haven of safety.
The result of pushing the Boko Haram into the Sambisa Forest and making parts of northeast Nigeria safer has been the return of many of the people who had been run out of their homes and communities over the last couple of years. Some estimate the number of people displaced by the insurgency at its height exceeded 1 million. Mission 21, a partner of EYN based in Switzerland, estimated that 750,000 of these displaced persons belong to EYN.
To get an idea of the scope of the rebuilding that has to take place, just imagine what it would be like if this happened to you and your town? What if you had to flee for your life one day and all you took with you was your children and the clothes you were wearing? Now, after living with relatives or in camps for more than a year, you return to find your community in shambles. This is what many Nigerians are facing.
In order to continue to help these people the Nigeria Crisis Response has had to shift gears. This year’s slogan is, “The Long Journey Home.” While this may not encapsulate everything that the response is trying to accomplish, it does represent the intention to assist Nigerians as they return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives and communities.
This is another huge challenge for Church of the Brethren. The question is whether American Brethren can afford to finance some of the areas that are so critical to helping the Nigerian Brethren get back on their feet and carry on. It would be too bad if, as a denomination, the Church of the Brethren could only accompany EYN just so far. So many Brethren have long-standing ties to Nigeria and part of their hearts has been with the Nigerians. It is these strong ties that bind the two churches together, not only during the current crisis that started in 2009, but in a continuing connection inherited from those who served in the Nigeria mission and dedicated themselves to Nigeria as a lifelong spiritual act of worship.
Now, northeast Nigeria and the church that was founded by Brethren missionaries more than 90 years ago face perhaps the biggest test in its history. We know that God is with them. But is God calling on us, once again, to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus to our closest brothers and sisters in the faith?
— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Find out more at www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .