In June, a 9 person delegation from EYN drove from Nigeria to visit the refugee camp at Minawao, Cameroon. The group consisted of three persons from the disaster ministry, the wife of EYN President, the Liaison officer, an EYN reporter, a student and two drivers. The trip was long and difficult with poor roads and several flooded rivers to cross.
The camp consists of 58,000 refugees living in close quarters. It stretches across 3.7 miles. There are Muslims, Christians, and some practicing traditional African religions. For the most part they live in harmony as they all struggle to survive. Christians are from 9 different denominations with the largest representation being EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). There are over 18,000 EYN members organized into 13 local churches; each with their own pastor. At a large meeting, the delegation brought greetings from EYN and presented the camp with $38,500 to assist in purchasing food. The refugees appreciated the visit and the meeting where they were encouraged to share about their struggles.
Four areas of difficulty were evident during the visit. Lack of food (a decrease in amount distributed by the United Nations who runs the camp), lack of water (long lines from morning to evening), few opportunities to farm and grow their own food, and schooling problems for the children. There are 16,000 elementary children registered at the camp but only about 10,000 are going to school. The school has no text books, few underpaid teachers (150 students to a class), and no official papers upon completion. The schooling is further hampered by the language barrier since this area of Cameroon is French speaking. Overlying the whole conversation is the desire of most of the refugees to return to their homelands in Nigeria. Although the Nigerian government claims the people can return home, the area is definitely not safe to live in.
We continue to pray for the refugees in Minawao, Cameroon and for the EYN Disaster Ministry as they help their fellow countrymen.
Pictures and information provided by EYN reporter, Zakariya Musa, and Liaison officer, Markus Gamache.
By Cliff Kindy, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer reporting from Nigeria Names abbreviated for security purposes.
Rev. L explains he is the district secretary for Attagara District of EYN and is from Attagara Village. On June 3, 2014, Boko Haram raided Attagara. Sixty-eight people died in the attack and sixty-five of them were from EYN. The raiders burned seven churches including the only EYN congregation. Unfortunately the other eleven churches in his district fell to the flames of Boko Haram as well as most of the EYN churches in the three neighboring districts.
Rev. L fled across the border to Cameroon while his wife and children fled to Michika. When Michika came under attack in early September the family reunited in Cameroon. Their new home was a refugee camp run by the United Nations. There were thirty thousand neighbors in their new home. The well that supplied the camp ran dry, the nearby river is without water now during the dry season and the nearest village is far enough away that those going for water may choose to stay overnight.
The UN sometimes only brings enough food for seven thousand people so the community has been good and shared what is available. The camp is far enough from the border that Boko Haram raids into Cameroon have not reached the camp but security officials from Cameroon recently rounded up nine people from the camp they accused of being Boko Haram.
People want to return to Nigeria but there continues to be very high risk in their home communities. Boko Haram dumped dead bodies in the wells of Attagara. All the homes are burned there. Even if Boko Haram leaves will they plant explosives as they depart and what about the family members who joined Boko Haram and choose to live in Attagara? But how long will Cameroon continue to host these visitors in the UN camp? Is there a safe place to go in Nigeria?
Most of the EYN refugees are farmers and would be willing to stay in Cameroon. Rev. L plans to visit the government to see if there is a large plot of land where the refugees could settle and farm. He also wants to see about some smaller plots to build five EYN churches. He has decided to stay in Cameroon and work with the church.
You see there are fifteen thousand EYN members in the camp. Since the camp is divided into five wards or sections each ward has an EYN congregation that numbers about three thousand people. There are three ordained EYN pastors and twenty-three evangelists very engaged in the life of these congregations. There have been fifty-three baptisms and two hundred thirty-five births among the EYN members. Their neighbors in the camp are about nine thousand Catholics, four thousand Muslims and one or two thousand Christians from other denominations. Are you interested in helping to plant new EYN churches in Cameroon?