Maiduguri was an amazing experience

Reflections by Zander

Zander

Zander

I spent five days in Maiduguri. For the three days of trauma healing workshops, I spent each day with a different group. The leaders were Dlama Kagula, Esther (I missed her last name, but the has a master’s from the UK), and Rev. Toma. That was an amazing experience in itself. LCC Maiduri Centre is HUGE. It was especially amazing to see how the Rwandan HROC model of trauma healing was adapted to fit the Nigerian experience.

Each day, I saw wider smiles; one could really see that many of these faces didn’t remember how to smile. I did my best to remind those in the workshops (and those facilitating) that they’re not alone, that people all over the world are thinking about them, and that the Church of the Brethren in America, especially, is with them. That brought a warm response and was a much-needed message for them to here. 

Nigeria-Borno State-Maiduguri

Nigeria – Borno State – Maiduguri

Maiduguri itself is a very interesting city. The roads are good, and wide, and maintained. There’s ample evidence of city planning. There were sidewalks and flood management ditches. It felt much more like the Middle East than it did to Jos and Abuja. It was also much cleaner than the other places I’ve been (although, the rivers still run with trash and every empty lot is a small landfill). The electrical system was bombed two years ago, so the entire city runs on either solar or generators. Also, it basically under full military occupation. It felt a lot like the West Bank at times, but it was nice to know the soldiers were actually there to protect the people this time. There was an attempted suicide bombing at a mosque in town my first night, two guys blew themselves up early and no one was seriously injured. I honestly only knew about it because I was checking the local news while I was there. I made sure to share it on social media so that no one else in the US that knows I’m here would find it first and worry.

IDP School at LCC Polo

IDP School at LCC Polo

Maiduguri has 22 IDP camps in it. We visited two of them and a school that some EYN IDPs started for IDP kids. They started the school because the government schools in the camps are Islamic schools, which makes sense, I don’t think we can really blame the government too much for that. It seems that EYN, in particular, is very adamant that their kids go only to Christian-based schools. So, since the government isn’t contributing to the IDP school in LCC Polo’s parking lot, UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, the EU, Japan, EYN, and CoB have all contributed to this school of over 700 children with all volunteer teachers. One of the camps we visited, which is about the size of LCC Utako’s compound, houses 7,456 IDPs. We were going to visit more, but a lot of them have recently added people so they didn’t want to take me without a security detail and there wasn’t time to put one together (so the story goes). I spent most of my time with Kadala, we had a good time and had good conversation about trauma healing, the HROC model, and sustainable relief.

Smiles at the end of the Trauma workshop

Smiles at the end of the Trauma workshop

One concern that Dlama did bring to me was that the Rwandans weren’t all in IDP camps when they went through trauma healing. The Nigerian adaptation is supposed to bring tangible relief the week before trauma healing to fulfill some basic needs in the hierarchy of needs so that people can focus on the trauma healing process. This doesn’t always fully happen and, even when it does, there a real difficulty of participants finding transportation to the workshops since most of them are in IDP camps and have to go a distance to get to the workshops. Dlama ended up paying for the transportation of a few participants out of pocket. Also, everyone thought it was hilarious when I ate egusi soup with my hands with them.

The only hang-up I had in Maiduguri was an argument I had with immigration when I was flying out who claimed that I should have a work visa instead of a tourist visa. I must’ve answered a question wrong without thinking or something. I eventually got him laughing and got him to let it go. It also took a while for me to convince them that I wasn’t U.S. Army, U.N., or a Journalist when I got there. That was pretty funny (:

 

Tales of Escape

Joshua - On the run from Kulp Bible College late October

Joshua – On the run from Kulp Bible College late October

Our newest Nigerian correspondent, Joshua Ishaya, is a fourth year student at Kulp Bible College. Like many others who lived in Nigeria’s northeast he is living as a displaced person. When my wife and I went and visited Nigeria in November, Joshua looked much thinner than the last time we had seen him. His eyes lacked the spark we had come to know from him. We tried to encourage him and spend some quality time with him. Now, just three months later when we returned to Nigeria, Joshua had regained his healthy glow and seemed to have made a considerable adjustment to his circumstances.

Correspondent Joshua Ishaya in March

Correspondent Joshua Ishaya in March

Joshua is now living with the family of his older sister in Kano. But like many displaced people, he was idle. So, to give him something worthwhile to do we asked him if he could interview some other displaced people and write up some short stories about his fellow countrymen and women. Here are stories of people he encountered in Kano

 

 

Felix from Mubi

Felix from Mubi

Felix ran all the way from Mubi to Cameroon on foot. It took him 3 days and nights. He was a student of Federal Polytechnic School in Mubi. He is Fali by tribe. After the 3 days journey, he had a very tough time finding food, accommodations, health care, and clothing. He stayed in Cameroon for 1 week. That week was one of the worst weeks of his life. He said, “I decided to die rather than to go through all those tribulations.” He then decided to turn back to Nigeria. He spent another 4 days and 3 nights this time before he could get to Yola. He arrived in Yola with only one set of clothes and some people helped him with clean clothes and food to eat. He was in Yola for another 48hrs until his brother in Kano sent transportation money for him to travel to Kano where he is now living.

Esther from Dille

Esther from Dille

Esther was living in Dille when the Boko Haram attacked the town. She was down ill and could not run with the others. This resulted in a flying bullet hitting her right hand. At first she did not know she had been injured but when she found herself in the neighboring village called Lassa, people asked her, “What happened with your hand?” Then she started feeling the pain and suddenly started crying. Some of God’s willing people helped her by taking her to the hospital where she got treatment. From Lassa hospital she fled to Mubi then to Yola and Bauchi before she got help and has found a place to stay in Kano.

Mercy from Maiduguri

Mercy from Maiduguri

Mercy was studying at a college of business in Kunduga a town about 35 kilometer from Maiduguri. The BH attacked this town and she was wounded while she tried to escape. She spent a month and 3 days at hospital. After the doctor discharged her she went to her home town of Chibok. However, they (BH) attacked Chibok again and she barely escaped  to Maiduguri. There was no one in Maiduguri who could offer her help so now she is in Kano with a sister.
Mercy’s sister is married to a Nigerian soldier who is also from the Northeast. They are responsible for many of his sisters and brothers and have 10 people living with them. Life is not easy; feeding, clothing and educating all these people is a huge problem on their modest income.

Stories from Nigeria: An Island in the Desert

Rev. Yohanna Budwara & Carl

Rev. Yohanna just after he arrived in Jos from Maiduguri

By Carl and Roxane Hill, co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response currently in Nigeria

Maiduguri is the Capitol city of Borno State located in northeast Nigeria. It has many distinctions. One is that it is credited as the birthplace of the Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram. It is the largest city in all of northeast Nigeria with a population of over 2 million. During the violence that has been gripping this part of Nigeria many people have sought refuge in this heavily fortified city, swelling the population by some 50 to 100 thousand. The marketplace in Maiduguri has been closed for some weeks to protect its citizens from suicide bombings.

We met Reverend Yohanna when we were teaching at EYN’s Kulp Bible College. He was not only a lecturer there but served as the campus chaplain. His children were all well versed in English and found us to be welcoming to them and people they could talk to. We really enjoyed this family. However, last December the Chaplain (as we called him) was transferred to become the DCC Secretary of Maiduguri. Besides being a very dangerous assignment the temperatures can get as high as 115 degrees.

As Boko Haram violence escalated throughout 2014 Maiduguri became a bastion of safety for Christians and moderate Muslims. The military also decided that Maiduguri would be protected and additional forces were stationed there. The offensive conducted by the Boko Haram surrounded Maiduguri and became an important target for the terrorists to capture. Fighting rages all around this city in the desert. But it has held out against the radical Islamist sect. As supplies were brought into the city Rev. Yohanna served as the Chairman of the Distribution Committee and provided relief materials for over 50,000 people. He organized peaceful distributions and was one of the only ones to keep accurate records. Based on his documentation the government was able to gauge the amount of supplies to be delivered.

Rev. Yohanna told us that it was a big job to be responsible for so many needy people. He said not all were grateful but most of the people praised God for his fair and honest work. “I really saw the hand of God in this work.”

Reports from Nigeria: A phone report from Cliff Kindy

Phone Report from Cliff Kindy to Carl and Roxane Hill on Feb. 3, 2015. Cliff is currently a Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria.

  • Cliff is helping organize a
    Cliff at Garku

    Cliff Kindy (right) volunteering in Nigeria. Photo courtesy of EYN Nigeria.

    Peace and Democracy Conference in Yola: promoting civic responsibility as the national elections draw near (scheduled for 14 February)

  • He will accompany delegates from the Swiss Embassy as they visit IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in Yola and survey the conditions in Mubi
  • Boko Haram insurgents continue their campaign of fear with bomb blasts in Gombe where President Goodluck Jonathan was campaigning earlier this week
  • Cliff has been instrumental in encouraging and participating in various Trauma Healing workshops – Mennonite Central Committee is sponsoring one for EYN leadership this week, helping these leaders to lead despite the trauma they may be experiencing
  • Cliff received reports that the Nigerian military attacked Boko Haram headquarters in the Sambisa Forest. With the successful defense of the city of Maiduguri, it appears that Boko Haram is being limited to hit-and-run tactics
  • With Cliff’s encouragement, EYN’s director of education has established a teacher-training program and set up locations to begin teaching at the five IDP camps in Jos
  • Cliff is asking for prayers for his mother who was recently hospitalized
  • Continued prayer for Cliff’s safety and health as he continues his important work in Nigeria
  • Lastly, as most of us are digging out of the recent snow storm, Cliff is enduring 100-degree heat with failing electricity and fighting mosquitoes in humid east Nigeria – way to go, Cliff!

Reports from Nigeria: Maiduguri

Maiduguri map

(Photo: AFP)

By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria

Maiduguri is the capital city of Borno State. It is home to about 2 million residents. It has  the distinction of being known as the birthplace of Boko Haram. It is also home to many churches that belong to EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). The largest Maiduguri congregation attracts up to five thousand people for Sunday worship. Over the last few weeks the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, has attacked numerous villages and towns in the far northeast section of Borno State, including Baga and most recently Maiduguri itself.

There had been a local EYN congregation in Baga at the time of the destruction of the city that made international news recently.  There were many other EYN congregations and preaching points in the area stretching from Baga down to Maiduguri. Those congregations have been in harm’s way as Boko Haram has raided and burned many of these small communities. Refugees fleeing the violence have escaped into Chad, Niger and Cameroon for safety. Many have also fled into the fortified city of Maiduguri.

EYN has a well-coordinated response to the crisis within the city. There are three Christian IDP camps within the city limits and six Muslim IDP camps. Most of the Christians, however, are staying with families and friends, with as many as fifty to seventy people in some of the homes. Though not all the displaced are registered, today (Saturday, 1/24) there was a total of 45,858 Christian IDPs registered in the city and there are probably close to a similar number of Muslims in the six camps. That number has increased nearly threefold from before Christmas and is growing rapidly each day. Federal and state governments have been providing assistance to the IDP camps and the organization of the Christian community has seemed to cover those IDPs staying with families who are missed by the government distributions.

Security within the city is very tight. Persons going to markets or churches are closely screened. Metal detecting wands scan each person at churches before entry. If there is any question people are patted down. No packages are allowed inside the church. A bible is the only thing attendees are allowed to carry with them. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can pass through security unimpeded. That Spirit seems to be present in abundance as churches are growing under the pressure.

Updates are coming in. Today (Sunday, 1/25) Maiduguri was being attacked by Boko Haram from three directions. In the east they were thirty kilometers away; in the north, 130 kilometers away and the west, ten kilometers away. People inside Maiduguri said it sounded like shooting was coming from all directions. An EYN pastor in Jos has three children in school in Maiduguri and they were the ones that called with the first reports. The city ordered all people to stay indoors so that the military would know who was attacking. The markets were closed. Latest reports are that the military repelled the attacks against Maiduguri but that a city to the north, with Nigerian military barracks, did fall to the attackers. Clearly Boko Haram wants everyone to think they are everywhere and able to attack successfully wherever they choose.

For more information on the Church of the Brethren Nigeria Crisis Response or to donate, visit www.nigeriacrsis.org.