By Janet Crago
Lalai is an EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria) pastor. He was serving in the town of Biu
at EYN #1. At that time it had approximately 2000 attendees. He shared with us recently some of the events leading up to the insurgencey often referred to simply as the “Boko Haram”.
He started his story in 2009, when a man in Biu was trying to make a bomb and blew up his house. He explained that this type of person transitioned into the group that later took the name of Boko Haram. At that time they were simply thugs.
In 2011, they came to the church in the morning, broke all the windows and were starting a fire in the pulpit area. Lalai confronted them and begged them saying, “Please don’t burn the church”. They ignored his plea and set fire to the church anyway. After they left, Lalai and others were able to quench the fire. Lalai called the police and begged for help, but the police never responded to his call.
In 2012, they came to the church in the night. They broke through the gate and broke all the windows again. They tried to break through the doors, but were unsuccessful, so they ran away.
Then the “silent” killings started. The thugs would unexpectedly come in the night, and kill targeted persons. Some of the local Imams (Muslim leaders) had criticized the actions of this group without a name. The Imams were then selected for killing and were individually visited in the night and killed. Some members of EYN Biu #1 were targeted because of their outspoken criticism of this group. They, too, were visited in the night and killed. The thugs visited a prominent family group that attended EYN Biu #1. They were all in their house at night. The thugs set fire to the house so that the family all ran out to escape the fire. Then they killed the man of the house and two of his sons. They spared the wife and three other children. It got so bad that everyone in Biu was afraid to say anything.
In July of 2013, five more Muslim men were targeted and killed. Then, many young men were killed and their very young widows left bereft. Lalai said that he buried so many EYN church members that his heart was almost broken. His nerves are affected. He was again swamped with overwhelming grief when the Chibok girls were abducted, for he is a Chibok man.
Still, the authorities did nothing. Finally, late in 2013 soldiers, vigilantes, and volunteers teamed up to guard Biu, and prevent the silent killings. The thugs, now known as the Boko Haram, found it much more difficult to carry out their horrible activities.
Lalai says that he has been truly traumatized. Before these events he knew he was a Christian, but seeing all these things, passing through it, and touching all those affected pushed him down a path he has never walked before. He now knows how much stronger in Christ he is. He’s not interested in the politics surrounding the Boko Haram insurgency. He sees his job as “walking the Jesus way” and “talking the Jesus talk.” He says he may not wear the cross hanging around his neck very often, but his life, his being, his very existence is fully in Christ. He truly “wears” the cross.