Nigeria Crisis work continues amidst the violence

There have been new reports of violence and attacks in Northeast Nigeria. Continue to pray for our brothers and sisters as they live in fear but continue to proclaim Jesus Christ as their strength.

As security continues to remain a concern, the EYN Disaster team has provided monetary assistance for the building of a wall which will surround the Kulp Theological Seminary and the church Headquarters area. This project is a huge under taking. Ten teams of block molders helped produce 21,000 blocks. Numerous other volunteers help move the dried blocks to where the bricklayers will construct the wall. Volunteers came from as far away as Maiduguri.

 

EYN Peace Program continues to work on trauma consciousness and resilience training. In February, workshops were held to measure the work of the newly trained Community Based Facilitators and encouraged these volunteers at the local level. The Community Based Facilitators are local volunteers who have been trained to assist others in dealing with the extreme trauma everyone is facing. As listeners, they give people a chance to share their stories. They  also teach some of the principles of trauma and encourage the forgiveness and resilience needed to live under such difficult circumstances. Four workshops took place in areas where Boko Haram are still active (Wagga, Madagali, Gulak and Midlu). The Peace program leaders had to travel back and forth from Michika each day as it was not safe to sleep in the towns holding the trainings.

All the churches in this eastern area of EYN have been burned and yet the churches continue to worship under temporary shelters. 81 facilitators, 22 females and 59 males, attended the four workshops; that’s 81 people at the local level trained to guide others through their trauma. Pray for all these volunteers and their trainers as they engage in such important work.

Nigeria Crisis Response helps thousands in 2018

      

Pictured – Medical Assistance, Skills & Business training for widows & orphans, Fertilizer & Seeds, Trauma Healing, Education Assistance, Clean Water Sources, Food Distributions, Special Relief to victims of Fulani Herdsmen, and Home Repairs were all part of the relief effort for 2018. (Pictures provided from 2018 Reports)

19 food distributions were organized for over 2500 families. One woman who received food had been captured by Boko Haram in 2015 and was freed with help from the Nigerian Army in November 2018. She was so appreciative of the food and household items because once freed they had nothing.

6300 people received medical help and screening for Hepatitis B. The medical officer and assistants travel thousands of miles to hold mobile clinics for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) and this year they embarked on a screening and inoculation program for Hepatitis B.

169 homes were rebuilt costing about $1000 a home. This program is in high demand for all those whose houses were burned by Boko Haram. Only the most needy (about 20 per town) receive the assistance and the recipients must complete the walls before the Disaster Team provides the roofing.

Trauma workshops and counselling have been provided for around 500 people. This trauma awareness includes being able to tell their stories and is going a long way to help overcome the extreme trauma they have incurred. Forgiveness is emphasized and many who participate in a workshop go home and tell others so the healing is spreading.

The level of education in NE Nigeria has deteriorated over the past few years. Some schools were closed, some burned to the ground, and others used to house IDP’s. The Nigeria Crisis Response sponsors a boarding school, several learning centers and has provided school fees for more than 1000 children. Children of the IDP’s and many others still have not been able to go to school and more assistance is needed.

Most people in the NE survive by farming. The Response helped 2500 families  with seeds and fertilizer. This year the distribution was streamlined through the Districts. The District Leader from Mubi said the hardest thing is choosing who will receive the help when so many are in need. With 17 of his district’s 25 churches destroyed, the needs are overwhelming. A Soybean Value Chain project is also being sponsored with help from Global Food Initiative and Illinois Soybean Innovation Lab.

Good water sources are always in demand. The IDP camps all need to provide and maintain a water source. Some wells were destroyed by Boko Haram and other places have never had clean water. The Response provided 11 communities with wells/bore holes, helping thousands of Christian and Muslim households.

Widows and orphans must find ways to support themselves and their families. 5 skill training centers operated in 2018 graduating 269 students. Each student receives the tools necessary to start a business. In addition, 135 widows were give around $100 as start-up capital. Through the EYN Women’s Ministry, workshops have been held, literacy programs put in place and peace groups started. The influence of the women is growing throughout the society.

Numerous other activities were held during the year. Seminars were held for capacity building, the District Leaders received training in Disaster Preparedness, Yola IDP camp was fenced, Shaffa Theological Education by Extension office was repaired, a new vehicle was purchased, special relief efforts were organized for victims of the Fulani herdsmen attacks, 2 Tripartite meetings were held, a Muslim & Christian Peace conference was organized, joint church re-building workcamp were held in Michika, and much more. WHAT A  YEAR!

Please continue to pray for Nigeria.

 

 

 

Guide our Feet in the Way of Peace 

By Nathan Hosler

This blog post is a sermon given by Office of Peacebuilding and Policy director Nathan Hosler. To learn more about Christian Peacemaker teams, visit their website here. 

Luke 1:68-79 

We are called to be a sign, a witness to the peace of Christ. To proclaim rightly, means that the peace of Christ cannot be forced. We can’t impose peace, at least not a true peace that is both geopolitical and personal, that is both an inward reconciliation and an outward wellbeing, that is both reconciliation to God and to neighbor and even, inexplicably, to our enemy. We cannot—nor should we try—to force peace. We bear witness to it, proclaim it. We must struggle for it—we must dedicate ourselves to it.  

In our Luke passage there are two layers of proclamation. One is of the coming savior. In verse 68 we hear—“The Lord has redeemed”. In the next verse “He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David,..” This will be Jesus, Emmanuel—God with us. The Prince of Peace. This is the Advent waiting for the incarnate one. This is God coming near to heal.  

In a resolution on drone warfare initially drafted in the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy and then passed at our 2013 denominational Annual Conference—we referenced this coming near to heal. It reads in part:  

All killing mocks the God who creates and gives life. Jesus, as the Word incarnate, came to dwell among us (John 1:14) in order to reconcile humanity to God and bring about peace and  healing. In contrast, our government’s expanding use of armed drones distances the decisions to use lethal force from the communities in which these deadly strikes take place. We find the efforts of the United States to distance the act of killing from the site of violence to be in direct conflict to the witness of Christ Jesus 

While our policies and practices often pull us apart, drive wedges between groups, and heighten animosity—our ministry of reconciliation and peacemaking is proclaimed by the one for whom we wait this advent.  

There is also a second layer of proclamation in Zechariah’s song—that of the messenger, John—who will be called John the Baptizer. He will prepare the way for the Holy one. In verse 76 we read, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,…”  

Throughout this text, through the two layers of proclamation we see the mighty acting of God on the plane of human history. The passages ends with— “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 

To guide our feet into the way of peace. Because many of us have read the story beyond Christmas, we know that the awaited baby Jesus will become the teaching Jesus who will say, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” He will teach to love one’s enemy and pray for the one that persecutes you. He will teach to go and confront and be reconciled. He will guide our feet into the way of peace. 

In this town peacemaking is an odd word. Even for organizations that work for things that I would characterize as peace, peacemaking—the term—is a little unusual. While at dinner after speaking on a panel about Nigeria, I was talking with a colleague from one such organization. I was in the throes of dissertation writing and I revealed that I was writing on peacemaking within the work of Stanley Hauerwas. While she certainly didn’t know of Hauerwas she also wondered why the term peacemaking rather than the more common “peacebuilding.” I noted that while I use the terms somewhat interchangeably, the term peacemaking is based on the biblical text, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”  

But why are these peacemakers called the children of God? A chapter later we read– Love your enemy because God who is your heavenly parent sends rain on both the righteous and unrighteous. God provides even for the enemy. To resemble your parent is to demonstrate that the you are a child. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” I am not sure when I first learned about Christian Peacemaker Teams, but I think it was sometime as a child. I grew up in a Church of the Brethren congregation and my grandfather and his brothers were conscientious objectors. I grew up believing that to follow Jesus meant serving others and being against war. In college as my understanding of my vocational call to ministry took shape, I felt the same theological impulse that brought about CPT—If I am opposed to war, I need to be ready to work for peace. For my graduate work in international relations I almost wrote on Christian Peacemaker Teams.  

I have a vivid memory of being at the Church of the Brethren’s Annual Conference over the time when I was beginning to decide what I would research. We met up with Art Gish, an old CPTer, to talk about intentional community. While walking briskly through the crowds of people I told him I was considering writing on the power leveraged by CPT as international actors. The picture caught in my mind is him looking back at me, with his bushy white brethren beard, a big smile and laughing, saying “I don’t know why it works, but it works!” The earlier work of CPT focused on “Getting in the Way,” more explicitly using their international presence in nonviolent resistance to both stop violence and highlight the situation for the broader international community. This then plays on international institutions, geopolitics, and broadly international relations—hence my interest as a Historic Peace Church kid studying international relations. While CPT still works in this context its work and framing of its work has evolved over the years. We now describe the work thusly: “CPT builds partnerships to transform violence and oppression.”   

We then expand this by describing this short phrase by stating that the work is:
Inclusive, multi-faith, spiritually guided peacemaking. We approach injustice from a spirit of faith and compassion.   

CPT accompanies and supports our partners in their local peacemaking work in situations of violent oppression. 

Committed to undoing the structures of oppression that feed violence, both in society and within our organization. 

Christian Peacemaker Teams has projects in Iraqi-Kurdistan accompanying human rights defenders and supporting communities being bombed, the city of Hebron in the West Bank of Palestine accompanying during things such as the olive harvest and monitoring heavily militarized checkpoints that children pass through on the way to school, Winnipeg, Canada with the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Program, in Colombia with small holder farmers at risk of displacement from their land, and a regional project on the Island of Lesbos with arriving refugees.  

First, CPT’s work is Inclusive, multi-faith, spiritually guided peacemaking. We approach injustice from a spirit of faith and compassion. 

A few weeks ago, Marcos Knobloch, a full-time CPTer on the Colombia team, was with me DC. My office arranged a series of meetings with partners and US government bodies—specifically the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights staff and with the State Department. In the course of telling about their work he noted that while there are a number of international organizations working in their area of Colombia, CPT is the only one that is faith-based. This spiritually guided peacemaking gives them a particular pastoral work as they accompany people that have suffered violence.  

Secondly, CPT accompanies and supports our partners in their local peacemaking work in situations of violent oppression.  

Marcos also spoke about CPT Colombia’s work to protect human rights defenders and vulnerable communities. Since the signing of the peace accords late in 2016 there have been 350 assassinations—approximately 1 every other day. In this context CPT works with the Corporation for Humanitarian Action for Peace and Coexistence in Northeastern Antioquia (CAHUCOPANA). CAHUCOPANA has being working for human rights for small scale miners and farmers for 14 years and because of this work has faced many threats. CPT has been working with them since 2009. While the government has agreed to provide such leaders protection, this is often limited to cities. In these isolated areas accompaniment is vital. In this, CPT plays an unique and critical role.  

Thirdly, CPT is Committed to undoing the structures of oppression that feed violence, both in society and within our organization. In Canada, with the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity project this involves working for decolonization and challenging corporate and government exploitation Indigenous nations. In Hebron this involves living and working in the old city—being a physical presence in a contested space and documenting the military occupation.  

 

 “CPT builds partnerships to transform violence and oppression.”   

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 

In this second Sunday of Advent we continue to prepare for the coming of Jesus. The one who will embody peace, who will bring reconciliation and justice, and who will teach blessed are the peacemakers. The incarnation—the coming of Jesus—is the showing up of God to bring healing.  

Show up. Peacemaking, like the Incarnation, involves showing up.  

I invite you to continue with us in this important work. We need our teams on the ground. We need individuals to go on two-week delegations to learn, support, and then tell the story. We need funds, prayers, passing on our publications. As the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans–“For as in one body we have many members, and not all members have the same function.” (Romans 12). We are called to peacemaking. Our common call to peacemaking will look different. —may Christ guide us in the way of peace

Defend Human Rights: Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems

It seems like something out of a dystopian novel- autonomous killer robots, making decisions about who is targeted and when to fire their weapons. Unfortunately, scenarios involving Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) aren’t as fantastical as we would like to believe. Many of the weapons used today are already employing artificial intelligence technology to aid in military operations, and the industry is headed rapidly towards the development of fully autonomous systems in which humans are not involved in the final decision to strike.

On this Human Rights Day, we call attention to the potential for LAWS to take away the basic human rights of “life, liberty and security of person” and the right to a hearing before an impartial tribunal in relation to criminal charges, as laid out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Church of the Brethren laid out the biblical rationale for sanctity of life in a 2010 statement, saying, “sanctity of life was and is a fundamental value of our faith. According to the biblical witness we recognize the following as foundational for our conviction regarding the sanctity of life: God created human beings in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and God proclaimed this creation “very good.” In Exodus God commands the Israelites to “not wrong or oppress a resident alien” (Ex. 22:21).”  The church’s commitment to human rights is evident in it’s work against the use of drones in warfare. Even the human-operated drone strikes have resulted in unacceptable loss of human rights for targeted communities, and autonomous weapons would accelerate our departure from human rights norms in how we deal with international conflict.

The trend towards development of autonomous weapons is chilling, and a wide range of industry representatives, faith communities and human rights NGOs have called for a complete ban on the development of and use of LAWS. The Future of Life Institute coordinated a Lethal Autonomous Weapons pledge, which has been signed by industry leaders like Google DeepMind and Elon Musk.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the European Forum on Armed Drones, and many other disarmament-focused organizations are working to incorporate language against LAWS into United Nations and European Union policy. The Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare continues to advocate in Washington, D.C. for good drone policy on the United States’ end.

The Church of the Brethren affirmed it’s statement against the use of drones in warfare in 2013, and has been working with the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare since then to enact policy changes in the United States. The Church views the use of drones as a moral issue, as it does all participation in war, saying in the 2013 statement that “war or any participation in war is wrong and entirely incompatible with the spirit, example and teachings of Jesus Christ,” (1918 Statement of Special Conference of the Church of the Brethren to the Churches and the Drafted Brethren) and that all “war is sin…[and that we] cannot encourage, engage in, or willingly profit from armed conflict at home or abroad.”

To urge the company responsible for the Predator and Reaper drones (General Atomics) to sign the Future of Life Institute pledge to not develop lethal autonomous weapons systems, our office is working with the Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare to host a faith rally on May 3rd in Washington, DC. At this event, we will share why drone warfare is illegal, immoral and ineffective, and our communities will call for an end to CIA drone strikes and for General Atomics to sign the Future of Life pledge on lethal autonomous weapons.

Join us for the rally on May 3rd! More details can be found here.  Can’t make it to D.C. for the rally? Organize your own demonstration in your own community, and support us on social media with the hashtag #EndDroneWarfare.

Drone strikes are being ordered on our behalf, as U.S. citizens. It is important that we take the time to speak up for justice for the victims of the drone strikes that are already happening, and preemptively protect human rights that would be taken away by the use of autonomous weapons.

Pray for Nigeria and the EYN Church

(A report from the EYN Disaster Ministry)

In the last two weeks Boko Haram has intensified their activities in  BORNO State. On Saturday, 28 farmers were killed at KALLE village near Molai along Damboa Road, Maiduguri. That night, two villages in Konduga were burnt down and many were killed. On Thursday, October 18th, Hauwa, the midwife working with RED cross that was kidnapped in RANN, was murdered. In addition a lot of killings are taking place around Dagu and Midlu. At the moment, KADUNA State is under 24 hour curfew because of Religious crisis between Christian and Muslim youth. At Kasuwan Magani, more than 58 people were killed and many houses were burnt down. The country really needs prayer as confusion and political interest are hitting hard. We can say that boko haram and the religious crisis is far from coming to an end. The Government and the Military are not giving the world the true picture of our country.

Conference center at EYN Headquarters

Finally, many people in the EYN area are living in a fear of the  unknown. We will continue to trust in the Lord and his saving grace.
Thank you for your prayers for Nigeria and its people.

Ready for Peace – Hammond Mills

My back stings from a sunburn. My arms creak, my eyes sting. I have scabs up and down my legs from itching my bug bites too much. My shoes are soaking wet and I have dirt in my hair.

And… my cheeks ache from smiling.

I am incredibly happy. Being the Youth Peace Advocate, this week and every week, has brought me so much joy! Sure, I feel the skin peeling off my back and I’ve had about 40 gnats fly into my eyes, but I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of it.

Yesterday, a boy asked me what my favorite color was. When I said “orange,” he smiled, took off his bracelet, and put it on my wrist.

The day before that, one of the campers made me a card and a peace wand. (How cool is that?!)

The day before that, I was initiated into “the order of the forks.”

Every day, I have 10 kids running up to hug me.

I have been on the receiving end of so much generosity and kindness this summer, it’s kind of hard to believe. The amount of love I have been shown could outshine the sun.

“Hi, I’m Laura Hay, the Youth Peace Advocate” have become my favorite words.

I’d like to say that I’ve grown up: that I’m super peaceful now and I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings ever…that I never get competitive and push people out of safety zones during capture the flag to tag them. But the people at the Missouri/Arkansas camp know that’s not true. This week I’ve struggled more than ever with the fact that I’m still human. I’m struggling to be more peaceful and to not let myself be overwhelmed by the little things. I wish I could just wave my “peace wand” and suddenly there would no longer be discord at camp.

But I can’t.

I still say the wrong things sometimes, but I’m getting better. I’m catching myself in times of harshness and trying to give people grace in theirs. I’m trying to be more honest and trusting of people. We like to think that keeping an idea in our heads or a hope in our heart, that things will change. But it’s a process and it takes action. I pray that I continue to practice peace in the days, weeks, months and years moving forward, and that I forgive myself when I’m not as peaceful as I wish I would be. I hope that in the future there will be more youth, eager to get sunburnt faces and sore muscles in the name of peace.

My cheeks hurt from smiling, and I’m ready for peace.

Peace and Prayers,
The Youth Peace Advocate (Laura Hay)

Nigerian Brethren provide relief for victims of Fulani herdsmen attacks

On June 23rd Fulani Herdsmen in the Jos Plateau area attacked numerous villages. Officials report 238 persons killed in 17 villages. The attackers also burnt and vandalized the villages, destroying homes, churches and properties. The people cannot return home. Some reports indicated that roads to outlaying villages are blocked by the Fulani. Many families are displaced and living with relatives or in temporary camps.

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria’s (EYN) main area is in Northeast Nigeria but it has a presence in the Jos Plateau area where the June attacks occurred. The Middle Belt of Nigeria has many Christians from numerous denominations. When EYN’s Disaster Response Ministry got word of the numerous displaced persons in Bokkos LGA, they were ready to help. The Disaster team organized a large distribution for 1639 persons in the Bokkos area. 9000 pounds of corn, 7,700 pounds of rice along with beans, gari, palm oil, spices and blankets were distributed. 

Recipients of the food distribution were so grateful. They noted that EYN’s methods were different than other relief/government agencies; they actually stayed to distribute the materials, gather data and listen to people’s stories. The devastation of these villages will have long reaching consequences for all those involved. The Disaster team is well aware of this because of their work in the Northeast.

Despite all the work the Disaster team has going on as they help in the Northeast, they came to the aid of their fellow Nigerians in a time of desperate need . Well Done Nigerian Brethren!

Amazing Grace at Camp Harmony

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wreck like me. I once was lost but now am found was blind but now I see.”

One voice, low and hard to hear over the sound of the booming fireworks, was an 8th grade boy singing gruffly this well-known and moving song. No one joined him, but he didn’t seem to care. He carried on until the end and took no note if anyone was paying attention. I’m not sure anyone else heard him but me. God invites us to sing, to sing his praises not minding if anyone joins in – but to persist and sing nonetheless.

Camp Harmony Heroes

Camp Harmony Heroes. Photo by Laura Hay.


One of the sessions that our worship leader, Nick, talked about was being a “weirdo” and the implications that word has. Where Nick would use “weirdo,” I would say “rebel.” Christianity is mainstream. Being a “one hour a week Christian” is mainstream. But what if we had the rebellious spirit of that boy raising his voice above the fireworks? What if our actions, and not our words, called others to us and through us allowed them to see good in the world? That’s what being Brethren is to me.

One of the first days of camp there was a trash can that had been knocked over by a cat at the pavilion. One person began to pick up the trash. No one helping at first, but slowly more hands joined to help with the clean-up. That’s who Brethren are, that’s what we do. We live the life we feel is the best representation of Jesus and hope people see that and join in. Jesus was a “weirdo,” and he was rebellious. Be a “weirdo!” Be a rebel in the way Jesus was. Picking up that trash wasn’t the coolest thing to do. Getting all dirty and touching a bunch of disgusting garbage is gross. But it’s what this person felt was right.

While I was in Pennsylvania at Camp Harmony, many people from our denomination came together at Annual Conference to work at what it means to be Brethren and how we do that on the national level. I wasn’t there, but I hope that the conference kept that value in mind: Brethren show our faith through action, boldly following the rebellious spirit of Jesus and continuing that work – peacefully, simply, and together!

By Laura Hay, Youth Peace Advocate

Kids; Kids Everywhere

The mean age in Nigeria is 18. That means there are as many people under 18 as there are over 18. That also means there are a lot of children in Nigeria. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by kids. It was especially fun to take Carter Beecham with us on our last visit to Nigeria. Carter is 14 and he had fun interacting with all the children. Some places we visited the children could hardly speak English so communication was difficult. The Favored Sisters School in Jos has worked hard at teaching and using English and Carter had fun conversations with the children who live at the school. We brought beach balls, soccer balls, and jump ropes to give out to each school and camp that we visited. It was probably the first beach balls the kids had seen and they had a lot of fun keeping them in the air.

Children in Nigeria do a lot of chores to help out around the home. Fetching water, watching younger siblings and helping with the farm are all jobs the children help with. School is not free in Nigeria and parents must come up with money for school fees. This is very difficult especially for the Internally Displaced Person’s who don’t have a way to earn a living. Some of the camps have makeshift schools but still many children have not received adequate education over the last 3 years.

We continue to pray for all the children in Nigeria!

Favored Sisters School

Wells benefit Christian and Muslim communities

EYN Disaster Ministry put in 2 wells and 2 bore holes around Shaffa and Kwajaffa area. Many wells were destroyed during the occupation by Boko Haram. These water sources will serve 300 families each. At one site, the majority of the people accessing the water are Internally Displaced Persons from the Gwoza area (they are mainly farmers who cannot return to their homes.) At another area, the well will be used by mostly Muslim families. Peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians is one of the goals for Northeast Nigeria. This water source put in by the church is a big step toward maintaining peace.