Garkida attacked by Boko Haram, town was birthplace of EYN in Nigeria

The interior of the EYN Garkida No. 1 church, destroyed in the attack on the town of Garkida the night of Feb. 21-22, 2020. Photo courtesy of EYN

The town of Garkida in northeast Nigeria was attacked by Boko Haram the night of Feb. 21-22. Garkida is considered the birthplace of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) as the place where the Church of the Brethren was started in Nigeria in 1923.

Many buildings were burned in the attack that seemed to target churches, schools, health centers, police station, and barracks, but also destroyed shops and homes. EYN disaster relief director Yuguda Mdurvwa reported that three soldiers were killed and three civilians sustained injuries, including two with gunshot wounds. The soldiers worshiped at the EYN church. In addition, a member of the staff of EYN Mason’s Technical School in Garkida is still missing.

EYN Media head, Zakariya Musa, reported that the EYN Rural Health Training School was burned, but its more than 100 students were on holiday at the time. The EYN women’s fellowship of Garkida district was having its annual conference at the EYN Garkida No. 1 church that was attacked and burned. None of the women were killed, reported Markus Gamache, EYN staff liaison.

“We grieve the attack on Garkida,” said David Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in the US. “We pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. We pray for this violence to end.”

Brethren Disaster Ministries is preparing a large grant to continue assistance to the Nigerian Brethren through the Nigeria Crisis Fund. Donations toward this relief effort may be sent to the Nigeria Crisis Fund at .

EYN disaster relief staff and the pastors of EYN Garkida No. 1 and EYN Garkida No. 2 congregations, in the destroyed interior of Garkida No. 1 church. Photo courtesy of EYN

Report from EYN Media:

EYN president Joel S. Billi made an assessment visit to Garkida on Feb. 24, reported Zakariya Musa, head of EYN Media. He described the destruction in Garkida as “enormous.” Billi lamented the destruction of three churches (EYN Garkida No. 1, a Living Faith church, and an Anglican church); the EYN Rural Health Training Center including an administrative block, a student’s hostel, and classrooms; the police station and barracks; several shops; and homes of prominent people in Garkida.

“Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, who was at the scene on Sunday, Feb. 23, to commiserate with the people, described the level of damage as huge and appealed to the Federal Government and Development Partners to come to the aid of the area,” Musa reported.

“Information from sources in the village says the insurgents came in about 9 truckloads of their men, and more than 50 motorcycles carrying at the least 2 persons, infiltrating the town through Biji-biji village around 5:30 and started shooting sporadically.”

The EYN Rural Health Training School that was burnt was established in 1974 by Brethren missionaries, and is one of the EYN institutions based in Garkida. Other property that belonged to the center was burned including several vehicles and ambulances and a bus belonging to ZME, the EYN women’s fellowship. Students’ personal property was destroyed and pharmaceutical drugs may have been stolen.

“The EYN director of the Integrated Community Development Programme (ICBDP), Mr. Marcus Vandi, who has the Rural Health Programme, also condemned the destruction of the Rural Health Central Store and burning of excess drugs by the terrorists,” Musa said.

A classroom at the EYN Rural Health Program that was destroyed in the attack on Garkida. Photo courtesy of EYN

Report from the EYN staff liaison:

A report from EYN staff liaison Markus Gamache said the attack was “devastating…. The saddest part is that some people from the very town of Garkida who were recruited by the insurgents were the ones selectively showing the insurgents which properties to set ablaze.

“This attack was mainly targeted on Christian and government property, and this seems to be the major destruction they did in Garkida since they attacked the town in 2014,” said Gamache. “Some of the eyewitnesses said the effort by the military was not much seen…. The insurgents stayed for some hours without any help from anywhere.”

“More prayers, more support are needed to enable us to accommodate the present pressing needs at the interfaith community,” said Gamache. “The biggest part is that more widows and orphans who are helpless are on the increase. If the government did not see what is coming, then we are in bigger trouble than the past five years since the attacks started. There is a divide across the faiths, across the government, across the regions.”

Gamache pointed out that Garkida, the town where EYN was first started in 1923 with worship under a tamarind tree, is a historic place for church work not only for EYN but for both Muslims and Christians because it brought a great deal of community development. When Church of the Brethren missionaries arrived, health, education, agriculture, and water were the primary aim, not religion. People who benefitted from such facilities were not forced to be Christian.

“Across the region we have had mixed families of Christians and Muslims living together for a long time, but in recent years there has a been a big divide based on wrong teaching from some religious clerics,” said Gamache. Because of such teachings, political interests, and brain washing, “we lost our traditional and cultural values and family ties.”

Several of the shops that were burned during the Garkida attack. Photo courtesy of EYN

Other recent attacks:

The reporting from Musa and Mdurvwa also included news of recent attacks on other Local Church Councils (LCCs) or congregations of EYN, and other church districts (DCCs).

Earlier this month churches were burned in the district of Leho Askira including EYN Leho No. 1, EYN Leho No. 2, EYN Leho Bakin Rijiya.

Also attacked recently was EYN LCC Tabang in the Askira/Uba area. A nine-year-old child was abducted, Musa reported. In a Jan. 13 attack on Tabang, 17 houses were burned or looted in same community, and at least one person sustained a bullet wound and was hospitalized, Mdurvwa reported.

In Chibok district, three attacks have been carried out since last November, according to Mdurvwa’s report. The most recent on Feb. 18 burned two churches–EYN Korongilim and EYN Nchiha–and killed two church members. Also, six people were abducted from their villages. The attacks on Korongolum and Nchiha destroyed more than 50 houses.

In a Dec. 29, 2019, attack on Mandaragraua village in the Biu area, 18 women and children were abducted, Mdurvwa reported.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is preparing a large grant to continue assistance to the Nigerian Brethren through the Nigeria Crisis Fund. Donations toward this relief effort may be sent to the Nigeria Crisis Fund at .

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