(Photo: Morning Star News)
In Mubi in northeastern Nigeria, Christians do not dare step out of their homes after 8 p.m., church leaders say. And many Christians are too afraid of Islamic extremist attacks to attend church services.
This month suspected members of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram killed eight members of a Church of the Brethren (Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, or EYN) congregation outside Mubi, among others – the latest in a series of attacks in or near the town in Adamawa state bordering Cameroon.
"The crisis has created a lot of hardship for Christians, as even movement to eke out a living is restricted," said the Rev. Daniel Yumuna, a district secretary of the EYN. "Businesses of our church members have all collapsed because they face attacks regularly, and living generally has been made very difficult here not only for our church members but for all other Christians in this part of the country."
The EYN church at Samunaka, on the outskirts of Mubi, was targeted on Feb. 1 and Feb. 4 in attacks on the area that killed at least 15 people; besides the eight Christians killed and one church member wounded by gunshot, according to church leaders, the church building and pastor's office went up in flames, as did some Christian-owned homes. Two other EYN churches were burned down in Huwim, in Mussa District, on Feb. 2, and in Bita, in Gavva West district, on Feb. 3.
Among the dead from the attack on the Samunaka church, according to Yumuna, were Danjuma Garba, Ezra Kwada, Friday Toma, Kwasini Iliya and two children of Drami Tizhe.
"In the town of Mubi, Christians are even afraid of going to the market to buy food and other sundry items they need to survive," Yumuna said.
Christians from EYN churches in other parts of Adamawa state – Song, Hong, Yola, and Maiha – have also been displaced, he said.
Military authorities in Nigeria say Boko Haram, which has its headquarters in neighboring Borno state, is responsible for the attacks on Christians in Mubi. The Islamic extremist group seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout the country. Nigeria's Joint Task Force, charged with protecting against extremist attacks, killed Boko Haram's commander in Mubi, Abubakar Yola (alias Abu Jihad), last September. Officials said the military also arrested156 members of the sect and four of its commanders.
Boko Haram last year killed 46 Christian students at the Federal Polytechnic in Mubi. The students were slaughtered or shot dead as the assailants went door to door ordering them to recant their Christian faith; those students who refused to do so were instantly killed.
In December 2011, about 30 Christians were killed in the towns of Yola, Lamurde, and Mubi. Muslim extremists attacked a parish of the Christ Apostolic Church in the Nasarawa area of Jimeta-Yola, killing 12 Christians; the attack in Lamurde, about 50 miles away, took the lives of four Christians.
The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria states that is has about 180,000 members.
In Borno state, an EYN congregation at Chibok lost its pastor and 10 of its members to Boko Haram violence last December.
EYN leaders report that on Dec. 1, "gunmen attacked the EYN Kwaple Church in the denomination's Chibok district, killing Pastor Michael Peter Yakwa and 10 members of the congregation." Yumuna added that their church building was burned down.
Another Church of the Brethren congregation was attacked in Borno's town of Biu in June 2012. The EYN website reports that five gunmen surrounded the church and began shooting.
"An alert watchman closed the gate to the church, but the gunmen then began shooting into the church through the walls," the report says. "At the time there were about 400 people in the church service, including children. One woman was killed and a number of people were injured, but of the injured only two church members sustained major injuries."
EYN leaders told Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan that 14 of its pastors had been killed in the volatile northeast, where the Boko Haram insurgency has taken root. Other Church of the Brethren buildings have been destroyed in the Borno capital city of Maiduguri, and in Yobe state's cities of Damaturu and Potiskum.
"Every church in Nigeria is thinking about self-defense," EYN President Samuel Dali recently told a denominational conference in the United States. "How does the Church of the Brethren preach peace in this situation? Sometimes we are mocked when we talk about peace. But hope is not lost. Even during the time of missionaries it was not easy. But still they came up with a strategy to make sure the gospel was shared. So a difficult situation cannot stop the word of God."