Prayers, relief sought for Nigerian church after Boko Haram attack

The largest Christian denomination in northeast Nigeria, an ecumenical partner of the United Church of Christ, has been attacked by the militant group, Boko Haram, with the assailants once again invoking religion as justification for murder.

Boko Haram fighters overtook the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) headquarters on Oct. 29, sending those present, including families of denominational staff and Bible college students, fleeing for their lives. As representatives of the American Church of the Brethren work to learn more about the EYN people, it begins a more concerted advocacy effort to bring international attention to the crisis.

“Our hearts are broken about what’s happening in Nigeria,” said Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in the U.S. “However, we’re not so overwhelmed by this horror that we have become inactive. We are making a bold response. The board of the Church of the Brethren has committed up to $1.5 million to a new relief effort in Nigeria, working in cooperation with EYN.”

Right now it is believed most of those at the EYN headquarters escaped alive, but many people in Mubi and surrounding villages were killed and others are now trapped in the control of Boko Haram. The Islamic group, which has killed Muslims and Christians who oppose their ideology of extremism, is the same that kidnapped 300 Nigerian school girls earlier this year.

“Sectarian violence is an affront to God and a denial of our shared humanity,” said the Rev. Jim Moos, a UCC national officer and Wider Church Ministries executive. “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, a solidarity that is made real with our prayers, with our advocacy for peace and justice, and with our financial support through One Great Hour of Sharing.” 

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Dante Dali, the president of EYN, is calling for urgent help from the international community. In a letter he sent to the Church of the Brethren in the U.S, he also called for the Nigerian government to give serious attention to the suffering of the people.

“We need urgent help from the international community if the global community can have compassion on us,” he wrote in the email . “The future of Nigeria is getting darker and darker day by day but, Nigerian political leadership do not seem to take the suffering of the people very seriously. The government of Nigeria with all its security seems very weak and helpless in handling the crisis.”

Thousands of EYN church members have been killed and many of the churches have been destroyed in this conflict. Pastors and their families are among the abducted, and an estimated 90,000 church members have been displaced within Nigeria.

The UCC has used One Great Hour of Sharing funds to help support the work of the EYN, allocating $10,000 this year.

The latest situation drew a response from the World Council of Churches, of which the UCC and Church of the Brethren are both members.

“It is vital that the government take immediate and proactive steps to protect all the people of Nigeria and work strategically to defend them against such attacks, as well as supporting practically those who have recently experienced these atrocities,” said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC.

To help the people of the EYN through the UCC’s International Disaster Relief Fund, indicate you want your gift to go to the EYN.

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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