Brethren show solidarity with church in Nigeria

Aug 24, 2015 by and

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TAMPA, Fla. — Delegates at the Church of the Brethren’s annual conference received an update about deadly challenges facing the denomination’s sister church in Nigeria.

Church of the Brethren annual conference delegates view a “Wall of Healing” — 17 posters displaying the names, home towns or villages and dates of death of about 10,000 Nigerian Brethren killed in the Boko Haram insurgency since 2008. — Glenn Riegel/Church of the Brethren

Church of the Brethren annual conference delegates view a “Wall of Healing” — 17 posters displaying the names, home towns or villages and dates of death of about 10,000 Nigerian Brethren killed in the Boko Haram insurgency since 2008. — Glenn Riegel/Church of the Brethren

Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has been facing the assault of violent extremist Islamist group Boko Haram for years.

On July 13, EYN President Samuel Dali described the depth of the crisis and expressed thanks for the strong support of the U.S. church. He described how the area in which Boko Haram is active is the same part of Nigeria where EYN has been established. He said 1,674 churches have been burned, more than 8,000 church members have been murdered by Boko Haram and almost 1,400 pastors are displaced from their homes without churches to serve and without incomes.

Dali spoke of receiving telephone calls offering help, more than he would have asked for. Money was offered, but also expertise in emergency planning.

“You came and strengthened our hope to live,” he said of American Brethren. “You came and wiped our eyes to see a clearer and better future. . . . We believe the future of the church will be better than before.”

Hayward Wampana, a member of the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir, is in tears as Church of the Brethren annual conference delegates view a video about the crisis of violence and loss that has affected the Nigerian church. — Glenn Riegel/Church of the Brethren

Hayward Wampana, a member of the EYN Women’s Fellowship Choir, is in tears as Church of the Brethren annual conference delegates view a video about the crisis of violence and loss that has affected the Nigerian church. — Glenn Riegel/Church of the Brethren

Rebecca Gadzama told delegates of working to return the Chibok schoolgirls who have managed to escape their captors. Several of the girls are now in the U.S. attending school. It is hoped that more of them will receive that opportunity in the future.

Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of global mission and service, outlined long-term plans to support the Nigerian church. He reported that as of the end of June more than $1.9 million had been spent. In the next five years, the projected budget to fund the work in Nigeria is more than $11 million.

The report included prayer in the presence of a “Wall of Healing,” naming more than 10,000 Nigerian Brethren who have been killed by Boko Haram or who have lost their lives as a result of terrorism and violence. The 17 unrolled posters, each about 6 feet high and covered with names, were a strong visual reminder.

The 10,000 names were researched and recorded by Rebecca Dali and her nonprofit organization CCEPI, which has interviewed survivors and family members of those killed since 2008. For some victims, additional information is given, such as the man who was killed after he refused to recant his Christian faith and convert to Islam.

This summer the violence and the grip of Boko Haram has lessened in some areas of Nigeria, but it continues in other places. Many hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced, living far from homes, jobs and churches. The need for aid, for rebuilding and for healing from trauma will continue for some time to come, as will the need for prayer.


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