A Nigerian’s Response to Baga News

by Carl Hill, co-director, Nigeria Crisis Response

Many stories are coming out of Nigeria concerning the violence in the Northeast part of the country. This is where the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, has been carrying out a destructive campaign to eliminate all who oppose their plan to create an Islamic “Caliphate” in this mostly Muslim populated region. Christians, especially those associated with EYN, have been one of the major targets of this uncontained violence. Killings, kidnappings, burning of villages and looting are just a part of their fear tactics bent on clearing the area of all opposition. Moderate Muslims are not safe either.

Here, in America, it is difficult to know which news stories are accurate and which ones are just exaggerations?  After being in Nigeria over the last two years, our opinion is that much of what we read in the papers and on-line in not totally reliable. For instance, many of the news stories published comes from reporters based in Abuja (the Capitol) or Lagos (a large modern city located in the far South West of the country). This would be like getting breaking stories of Ferguson, Missouri from a reporter based in Miami, Florida or Los Angeles, California? While the story may have some basis in fact, more reliable reporting would come from a reporter much closer to the scene of action.

One of the things we are trying to provide with blog posts is to publish stories from our people in Nigeria! This could be a human interest story from American volunteers (like Cliff Kindy who is there now) or from Nigerians who have proven to us to be reliable sources of information.

Last week, many of you read about a massacre in a border town called Baga. Reports came in that the worst massacre in this long struggle took place there? I contacted our man in Nigeria, knowing that he had connections in both the Muslim community as well as the Christian one. Below is his communication he sent regarding events in Baga and the surrounding area. The bottom line is that the situation in Northern Nigeria remains very unstable. As the Church, we need to continue to pray for all those embroiled in this senseless violence. This includes the misguided members of the Boko Haram. It appears that only through the intervention of God Himself will this crisis ever find resolution.

Dear brother,
Greetings to you from cold Jos.
Baga is a town that majors in fish business.  Most of the fish we get from Chad basin comes through Baga. Baga is a big border (town) where most forces have their offices there. Forces from Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria (have been reported) to be there. My junior brother from Maiduguri told me that the whole town was overrun by BH  (Boko Haram) and many people were killed.  Since the beginning of August to December most Christians left the town because of fear and (the) threat from BH.

About the kidnapping and killing:  No forces will tell you the number of casualties because most of the military have run away, but we got some information from a few Muslims that are there.  Probably more than 200 people left dead and kidnappings have been going on daily.  The movement for forceful recruitment into BH for young people is almost everywhere now.  Women are kidnapped from almost every village and town.  The towns of Michika, Madagali, Gwoza and all other towns under the control of BH are facing kidnappings.

People that escaped from their custody will narrate their ordeal. God is helping lots of people coming out from different BH camps. Yola is collecting more and more people again.  Jos and Abuja is the final destination.

We have been working on reducing people in my house (at last count there was over 40) but we are getting more from Cameroon though most of them are in transit.

Na gode sosai (which means: “I thank you very much”)

Stories from Nigeria: Daniel

By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria

Daniel has been a driver for EYN travelers since 2002. He is married with seven living children and lives with a brother who is also married and with one child. His mother is still living and is caring for nine other extended family members.

When Boko Haram raided EYN headquarters on October 29th Daniel escaped with all his family and ended up in Jos where he continues to work as a driver with EYN. But he had fields of beans and ground nuts near Mubi ready to harvest when he fled. He does not know if loose livestock have destroyed his harvest.

Daniel’s mother crossed into Cameroon for safety when Boko Haram ransacked the areas surrounding Mubi. Her group of ten has faced difficult conditions in the mountains of Cameroon because there has been no relief agencies or government assistance coming to the aid of these refugees. As returnees have reported, “We lived on leaves.” The ten people in her group just returned to the Yola area and are living in the IDP camps that have dramatically increased the usual Yola population. Daniel was able to visit his mother one day while the group he drives for was conducting a trauma healing workshop at an EYN congregation.

Though some families are slowly returning to Mubi, Daniel has his job in Jos which helps support the members of his and his brother’s families. He faces a difficult choice between the income-producing job in central Nigeria and the possible harvest and extended family back in the eastern part of Nigeria. What would you do if you were in his shoes?

CCEPI Distribution

By Cliff Kindy, BDM volunteer reporting from Nigeria

CCEPI Distribution 1.2.15 blog

Photo: Dr. Rebecca Dali (on left), Director of CCEPI, leading the distribution.

On December 10th the Center for Caring, Empowerment, and Peace Initiatives (CCEPI) team gathered food supplies outside the temporary headquarters of EYN in central Nigeria. Displaced families had gathered and were already registered for ease in distribution. CCEPI is one of the EYN-connected NGOs that is being funded by Brethren Disaster Ministries through its Nigeria Relief appeal.

There was a rope outlining the area for supplies and CCEPI team to operate. Rebecca Dali, Director of the NGO, called out names and as families came to the rope each family received a plastic bucket, a large mat, twenty kilograms of maize, a blanket, two soaps and a bag of beans.

It was a colorful scene with bright scarves, children being nursed, other children playing in the clusters of people, a corner of elderly folks sitting patiently to receive some assistance and other hopeful, unregistered displaced folks waiting to see if supplies would stretch for them as well.

In the background the regular routine of the busy compound continued its usual pattern. EYN staff were in and out of their offices which were being spruced up with furniture to allow a more functional facility. A private school had delivered a huge load of relief supplies to the headquarters earlier that day. There were stacks of yams, toiletries, dried food goods and other edibles ready for distribution to the people displaced from the northeast of Nigeria.

Back at the rope around the CCEPI distribution circles of people were sharing with each other. An EYN pastor from Michika who had been hit by three bullets as Boko Haram moved into his home area in September was there, still healing. Though he had not registered he was hoping supplies would stretch to him.

A Church of Christ pastor and his wife were among those waiting. He had just finished an office management course and was returning home when Boko Haram reached his region. The family fled to Yola and then on to Jos when rumors of an impending attack on Yola spread. He was the one in the crowd advocating for the group of elderly patiently waiting at the edge of the circle. It seemed these elders were not on the registration list and he wanted them to get first opportunity at any extra supplies.

The distribution went smoothly for the over one hundred families. Having it off the road in a closed area with sufficient staff facilitated the process. Only a singing ZME choir (EYN women’s group) would have improved the setting!

Crisis Management Team

By Cliff Kindy, BDM volunteer reporting from Nigeria

Crisis Response Team Dec 2014
Disaster Management Team

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) Standing Committee has commissioned a seven-member Crisis Management Team (Team in what follows) to coordinate the church’s response to the overwhelming disaster that has engulfed EYN, especially in northeast Nigeria. Though the disaster has been years in developing this year, 2014, has been an especially difficult year for the church.

In April, Boko Haram abducted over 300 women students, 170 EYN, from their school in Chibok. Through the summer there were more attacks by Boko Haram in EYN areas of Borno, Ademawa and Yobe states. Then October 29th the EYN headquarters and Kulp Bible College had to be evacuated as Boko Haram ransacked Mubi and the surrounding area.

In August, Jay Wittmeyer and Roy Winter of the Church of the Brethren (COB) met with EYN Standing Committee and drew up a detailed response plan to the crisis. By November, though the framework of the plan remained valid, the crisis had grown immensely.

Carl and Roxane Hill, Co-Directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response were in Nigeria encouraging the process as the Team members were selected and Standing Committee commissioned them for the work. It wasn’t just a simple two-step plan that confronted the Team.

Their task included: 1) providing emergency feeding for tens of thousands of displaced, with a focus on EYN families, but recognizing the need to assist others where populations are mixed; 2) selecting leadership to carry out/coordinate an extensive trauma healing process for the church; 3) assisting with the re-establishment of an EYN headquarters, for this time near Jos, and a new setting for Kulp Bible College on EYN land; 4) organizing the return of thousands of EYN members from the refugee camps and the mountains of Cameroon; 5) settling refugees who would not return to their original homes onto newly purchased locations with homes, school, clinic and place of worship; with the intent 6) of quickly moving formerly displaced families from a dependence on emergency food to a position of being able to sustain themselves through jobs and farming; 7) expanding the peacebuilding work of EYN; and 8) carrying out regular advocacy with embassies and other potential partners in the relief efforts.

Implicit in this relief task was the vision to grow EYN as a national and international church. Developing the headquarters annex moved the center of the church to a location more easily accessible to the rest of Nigeria and neighboring countries. With Kulp Bible College near by that central accessibility for leadership training also holds true. When the return to Mubi is possible these new developments provide for increased opportunities for church growth.

In December both the COB and Mission-21 (formerly Basel Mission) made initial commitments to be partners with EYN in this immense undertaking. Mission-21 has been sending mission workers and financial support for EYN since Basel Mission merged with EYN in 1962, so this partnership is just a more explicit commitment to support the response to this disaster. One of the complicating factors for this three-way partnership is that the disaster continues with no indication that it might not grow.

Support from the Church of the Brethren is essential. Major fundraising will be required and many volunteers will be needed to walk with EYN in this process. It is a massive undertaking for all three of the partners.

Rich Day

By Cliff Kindy, December 8, 2014

The three-member Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) team and the four-member Mission 21 team ate breakfast early to head out to the building project site of the Lifeline Compassionate Global Initiatives (LCGI). LCGI is an interfaith nonprofit focusing presently on this effort to house those displaced by the attacks of Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria.

Samuel Dali, who participated in the dedication and is President of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), estimates that as many as 170,000 EYN members may be presently displaced from their homes as a result of the conflict ravaging northeast Nigeria. But many other Christians and many Muslims are also displaced by that fighting.

So Marcus Gamache and the LCGI committee have been building relationships, buying land, registering the 63 families and 394 people with the Nigeria security office and securing funding so that today’s dedication service could move ahead. Those are the families and the people who will settle this newly-purchased farm land. The community will lie on the edge of the rugged foothills of the mountains on the north edge of Abuja, the capitol of Nigeria.

One might assume that since Boko Haram says it is Muslim, displaced EYN members might not welcome a home next to a Muslim family. But this interfaith planning group has realized that building good relationships across faith lines is one way to break down those animosities that lead to war.

BDM and Mission 21 have funded and encouraged the efforts of LCGI. A line of men and women, some of the ones who will soon move into these homes, carried blocks from where they were formed down the road to the first home where they became the foundation. A bore hole will be dug this next week to provide the water needed for this large construction project. Marcus estimates that the community of homes should be completed by March.

Four EYN pastors and their families are among the new settlers. A worship center for Muslims and one for Christians will be part of this new community. Spiritual undergirding will be essential for this new beginning.

This is a small start with thousands of people yet to settle temporarily or permanently, but the LCGI committee trusts this site can supply a model that will inspire others. The riches of God are new every morning.