The town of Garkida in northeastern Nigeria was attacked by Boko Haram the night of Feb. 21-22. A number of buildings were burned, including the church building for Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN—the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
The EYN women’s fellowship of Garkida district was having its annual conference at the church that was attacked. 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.”
Gamache said that several houses, market, and three churches were burned, according to eyewitnesses who described the attack via WhatsApp messages and phone calls. He said the rural health center and two ambulances were also burned and two other ambulances were taken by the insurgents. Two soldiers were killed, and the police station and barracks were burned. Whether there were civilian casualties is not yet known.
According to several sources within Garkida, said Gamache, the insurgents entered in about nine trucks and more than 50 motorcycles. “The saddest part,” he said, “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.” The attack was “devastating.”
“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.”
Gamache said that people from towns and villages in Adamawa, Yobe, and Borno states are relocating out of fear. “After receiving four families last week at Gurku interfaith camp, we still have some that are coming. Yesterday evening, we received one family from Adamawa North.
“More prayers, more support are needed to enable us accommodate the present pressing needs at the interfaith community, said Gamache. “The biggest part is that more widows are orphans who are helpless is 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 attack 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 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 benefited from such facilities were not forced to be a Christian.
“Across the region we have had mixed families of Christians and Muslims living together for a long time, but in recent years there have 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.”
Contributions to assist EYN may be sent to the Nigeria Crisis Fund at www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisisfund .