Nigerian Brethren mother church burned in attack by Boko Haram

Mar 9, 2020 by

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Boko Haram insurgents attacked the town of Garkida, the birthplace of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, on Feb. 21. The militants burned a number of buildings, including the mother church of the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

The Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria church in Garkida was burned by Boko Haram insurgents Feb. 21. The church is the oldest Church of the Brethren meetingplace in Nigeria and is considered the EYN mother church. — Joel Billi/EYN

The Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria church in Garkida was burned by Boko Haram insurgents Feb. 21. The church is the oldest Church of the Brethren meetingplace in Nigeria and is considered the EYN mother church. — Joel Billi/EYN

The EYN women’s fellowship of Garkida district was having its annual conference at the church. Two soldiers were killed in the nighttime attack. EYN staff liaison Markus Gama­che reported no EYN church members or other civilians were killed or seriously injured.

The EYN Rural Health Training School was burned, but its more than 100 students were on vacation. The school was established in 1974 by Brethren missionaries. Other property at the facility that was burned included students’ possessions, two cars, a bus and an ambulance. A bus belonging to the women’s fellowship was stolen.

“We grieve the attack on Garkida,” said David Steele, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in the U.S. “We pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. We pray for this violence to end.”

Garkida is where EYN started in 1923 under a tamarind tree.
Gamache said several houses, a market and three churches were burned, according to eyewitnesses who described the attack via WhatsApp messages and phone calls. He said a rural health center and two ambulances were also burned, and two other ambulances were taken by insurgents. Two soldiers were killed, and the police station and barracks were burned. It was not known whether there were civilian casualties.

Several sources in Garkida said insurgents arrived in about nine trucks and more than 50 motorcycles.

“The saddest part,” said Gamache, “is that some people from the very town of Garkida who were recruited by the insurgents were the ones selectively showing the insurgents which properties to set ablaze.”

The attack was devastating.

“This attack was mainly targeted on Christian and government property, and this seems to be the major destruction they did in Garkida since they attacked the town in 2014,” Gamache said. “Some of the eyewitnesses said the effort by the military was not much seen. . . . The insurgents stayed for some hours without any help from anywhere.”

Gamache said people from towns and villages in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states were relocating out of fear.

“After receiving four families last week at Gurku interfaith camp, we still have some that are coming,” he said. “More prayers and more support are needed to enable us to accommodate the present pressing needs at the interfaith community. The biggest part is that widows and orphans who are helpless are on the increase. If the government did not see what was coming, then we are in bigger trouble than in the past five years since the attacks started. There is a divide across the faiths, across the government, across the regions.”

Gamache said Garkida is a historic place for church work not only for EYN but for both Muslims and Christians because it brought a great deal of community development. When Church of the Brethren missionaries arrived, health, education, agriculture and water were the primary aim, not religion. People who benefited from such facilities were not forced to be Christian.

“Across the region we have had mixed families of Christians and Muslims living together for a long time, but in recent years there has a been a big divide based on wrong teaching from some religious clerics,” he said. Because of such teachings and political interests, “we lost our traditional and cultural values and family ties.”


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