Sunday, June 14, 2015

Crisis in Nigeria

Over a year after Nigeria made international news for violence by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, leaving many dead and displacing over a million, people continue to work to recover and receive help to start over and to heal from the trauma. 

(first published in content on; reprinted with permission)

By Church of the Brethren staff

For many years there have been tensions and violence in northeastern Nigeria. In recent months the extremist group Boko Haram has advanced through the region, and for a time was taking over entire towns and villages, kidnapping children (including the Chibok girls), killing people, and destroying buildings, including churches. Since the Nigerian army along with troops from neighboring countries Chad, Cameroon, and Niger have claimed military successes against Boko Haram this spring, the violence has begun to decrease but suicide bombings and sporadic violent attacks on village communities continue, as do violent assaults on the city of Maiduguri where Boko Haram originated. 

Both Christians and Muslims have been driven from their homes or killed in this violence. This includes many members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). It is a complex situation with a terrorist group whose goal is to kill all who try to prevent them from creating an Islamic state with Sharia law.

The situation attracted worldwide attention in April 2014 with the kidnapping of over 200 girls from a Chibok school. #Bringbackourgirls is still relevant as 219 girls still remain captives.

Portrait mosaic of  several of the missing Chibok girls
(Church of the Brethren)

Crisis facts (as of 1/1/2015)

•More than 500 women and children kidnapped, many of whom are EYN members

•Over 8,000 EYN members killed

•Around three million people affected

•170,000+ EYN members are displaced – needing shelter, food and water

•Up to 700,000 Nigerians connected to EYN are displaced.

•43 of 50 EYN districts are impacted

•36 districts that were for a time controlled by Boko Haram

•2,092 EYN pastors and evangelists are displaced

•1,668 churches and church branches burned or abandoned

Devastating reports describe tragedy and death. People hid in the bush or lived in the mountains, trying to avoid raiding parties, afraid, hungry and homeless. Beginning in October 2014, many more villages were taken over, people killed and churches destroyed, increasing numbers well beyond the above facts. All the national leadership of EYN is now displaced.

Challenging journey

The Church of the Brethren has a long history of involvement in Nigeria. American missionaries first went to Nigeria in 1923 and a church was established as Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, which means Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. We have continued to support the church in Nigeria monetarily and with personnel. In 2013 as violence in Northeast Nigeria began to escalate, a compassion fund was set up to send support for relief for displaced persons and for rebuilding burned churches. But with the vast destruction in late 2014, Church of the Brethren here in America created a new program, Nigeria Crisis Response. Co-Directors were hired to manage this large project which includes raising funds and tracking the distribution of funds through EYN. 

Editor's Note: Some of the recent effort has been spent toward new housing for the displaced people, and availability of trauma-healing workshops. (See article excerpt below by Mennonite Central Committee worker Dave Klassen with Nigeria Crisis Response directors Carl and Roxanne Hill for more story on the trauma-healing workshops; article excerpt below for details of the relief effort; and article excerpt below by Peggy Faw Gish, volunteer with Nigeria Crisis Response, for more information on the building of interfaith-communities. 

We are at the beginning of a challenging journey. We can make plans and have good intentions, but the realities of the situation will likely change again, and we must flex with those changes. While we are trying to race aid to the homeless and hungry, we also know this is more like a marathon. Let us prepare to support our Brethren and other Nigerians for the long haul. It will certainly take years, maybe even decades.

How are you – how are we – prepared to be the Church of a living God, for such a time as this?

Nigeria Crisis Response staff provide details of relief effort

(excerpted from article first published in the Church of the Brethren Newsline, May 27, 2015)

By Church of the Brethren staff

...The Nigeria Crisis Response is funded through generous donations from Brethren congregations and individuals, ecumenical partners, and other groups and individuals. As of April 15, donations amounted to $1,299,800.51. When added to the $1.5 million in “seeds funds” designated by the Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board out of denominational reserves and existing monies in the Emergency Disaster Fund, the total comes close to $2.8 million...

...As of April 15, the Nigeria Crisis Response program has spent $1,031,086:

-- $387,558 to provide shelter for 3,000 displaced families, representing 24,000 people...

... -- $14,634 to support peacebuilding, trauma healing, and resiliency among displaced people

-- $78,016 to support livelihoods and economic empowerment for 1,000 families

(Editor's Note: For complete numbers on the relief effort expenditures see the full article at and click on "News.")

...Several hundred people have taken part in trauma healing workshops...

...In addition, new interfaith communities are being developed where Christians and Muslims are living side by side...

Trauma healing in Nigeria: A cathedral of tears and forgiveness

(excerpted from article first published in the Church of the Brethren Newsline, June 3, 2015)

By Dave Klassen, with Carl and Roxane Hill

Musa* grew up in a close-knit family that did not change even as they became adults. The siblings looked out for each other and their parents. When Boko Haram insurgent activity increased in 2014, the family became concerned for the welfare of their parents and tried to get them to move to a safer place. The parents refused, saying that at their age, they had no interest in running away from home. 

During the latter half of 2014, the Boko Haram successfully took over more and more territory in northeast Nigeria, carrying out their destructive activities as they went. Often they would arrive in a community suddenly and people would run for their lives. Musa’s community suffered one of those attacks where people scattered into the countryside, only to regroup some time later to assess who was living, who was dead, and what had been stolen or destroyed. People came to him and told him that they had seen his father’s lifeless body. As hard as it was to accept this news, it was even harder for him to tell his mother. 
A trauma healing workshop is held  
under the shade of trees.
(MCC/ Dave Klassen)

Musa shared this story with a group of 20 other members of his community--men and women, Christian and Muslim--at a trauma resiliency and awareness workshop supported by Mennonite Central Committee in cooperation with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Mugu Bakka Zako, MCC peace coordinator, shared with the group that it is very important to tell their stories to each other. He said that the road to healing trauma starts with telling your story to others who care. Tears are part of the healing.

Displacement and trauma

People fled from the Boko Haram in stages. Many thought they would be safe in neighboring villages, but when those were attacked, they were forced to flee again. Some squatted with friends or relatives. Others lived in schools or took shelter in abandoned houses or sheds. Most lost their homes, their food stocks (which they had planned to feed their families until harvest at the end of November this year), and other personal possessions.

At the beginning of Dec. 2014, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimated that there were 1.5 million people displaced within Nigeria and approximately 150,000 Nigerian refugees who had fled to the neighboring countries of Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. EYN is the largest Christian denomination in the areas affected by Boko Haram. EYN leadership estimates that at the height of the displacement, 70 percent of the church’s estimated 1 million members and adherents were not living in their home communities. Approximately 100,000 have found refuge in one of the many camps that have been set up for displaced people.

As the security situation changes, some of the displaced people are now returning home... It also is known that many Muslims suffered under Boko Haram....

...MCC has responded to EYN’s call to address trauma by putting together a one-year project developing a trauma resiliency model contextualized for Nigeria. Seven individuals from MCC, EYN, and an ecumenical Christian organization called TEKAN Peace, have been trained as trauma facilitators at a HROC (Healing and Reconciling our Communities) training in Kigali, Rwanda. They in turn are training more facilitators, who are facilitating groups of people to come to terms with their trauma while working toward reconciliation and possible forgiveness to stem the tide of violence. The project is designed around a sustainable model, training “listening companions” with limited resources....

*Full names of trauma healing participants and those giving testimonies have been omitted.

(Editor's Note: For stories of other individuals who have participating in the trauma-healing workshops, see the full article. Information to find that is at the end of this combined article.)

Dave Klassen works with Mennonite Central Committee in Nigeria, where MCC is a partner organization in the work to provide trauma healing workshops with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren in a cooperative effort with EYN.

Interfaith community is built for Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram

(excerpted from article first published on Gish’s blog- “Plotting Peace,” and in the Church of the Brethren Newsline, June 10, 2015)

By Peggy Faw Gish

...Markus Gamache, a staff member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), spoke about the vision he and other members of the Lifeline Compassionate Global Initiatives (LCGI) have to bridge the growing divide between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. In a country where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has generated a new wave of horrific Muslim-Christian violence, what better way to resist the growing religious tensions than to start a new community of displaced Muslims and Christians, representing many tribes, villages, and languages, to live mixed together as a model for inter-religious reconciliation?...

.... With a joyful celebration on May 12, with music and dancing, the Gurku Interfaith Camp was officially commissioned. Most of the families have now moved into the 62 completed 3-room homes. Christians and Muslims are interspersed evenly throughout the camp. Families are already starting to farm on the small plots of land they’ve been given. In a few weeks they hope to start building the new medical clinic [with funds provided by the Swiss Embassy], and after that, a school. In the fall, they hope to add more housing for another 71 families...

Peggy Faw Gish has been volunteering with the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and its Global Mission and Brethren Disaster Ministries, in cooperation with EYN. The Gurku camp and LCGI receive support and funding from the Nigeria Crisis Response and the Church of the Brethren’s Nigeria Crisis Fund. This report first appeared on Gish’s blog “Plotting Peace” at .

Editor's Note:  For full text of these articles, more information about the Nigeria Crisis Response, and to give, go to . You may also give by sending donations to: Church of the Brethren- Nigeria Crisis Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. Personal stories from Nigerian Brethren and more reports from the crisis response are on the Nigeria blog at

No comments:

Post a Comment