Anabaptist churches destroyed in Nigeria

By agency reporter
July 31, 2009

At least two churches of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN—the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) have been destroyed in the city of Maiduguri, and several Brethren members have been killed or injured in violence that has swept across north-eastern Nigeria since the beginning of this week.

The churches named in a report from EYN leaders include EYN Maiduguri/Wulari (or Maiduguri No.1 church), which was burned down, and EYN Jajeri. The report was received from the EYN General Secretary, Jinatu Wamdeo and from a leading EYN pastor from Maiduguri who also is a former chairperson of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Borno State Branch (his name is withheld for his safety.)

“EYN Wulari—the biggest EYN church—is bombed,” the report said.

“Three EYN members of Local Church Council Jajeri were killed, the assistant pastor injured. The security and the driver of EYN Maiduguri (were) injured.”

Violence also may have been threatened in Mubi, the closest town to the headquarters of EYN.

According to news reports, the Maiduguri churches were destroyed early in the morning on Monday 27 July 2009, during a wave of terrorist-type violence which began on Sunday 26th and included bombings of police stations and barracks and attacks on police across the area.

Members of an obscure fundamentalist Islamic sect which is opposed to Western-style education have reportedly perpetrated the violence.

This is the third time violence has affected EYN churches in recent years: EYN members were injured in the town of Jos in central Nigeria during rioting in December 2008 and at least five EYN churches in Maiduguri were destroyed or damaged in February 2006, in violence sparked by the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The EYN leaders report that at least 13 churches have been destroyed and more than 50 Christians have been killed in Maiduguri. The churches that were destroyed included the COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria) Railway church, whose pastor was among those killed.

“The brutal murder of Pastor Sabo of COCIN Railway was a sad one,” the EYN leaders wrote.

The report indicates that Government officials may have had warning of imminent attacks by the Islamic sect, prior to the outbreak of violence.

Leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria had expressed concern to the police commissioner and other officials. “On Friday the State Governor in a state-wide radio and television broadcast assured all that adequate security measures were put in place and no cause to fear, but alas,” the report said.

The Nigerian church leaders asked for prayer: “Please pray for all Christians in northern Nigeria, more especially in Bauchi, Yobe, and Borno States. Pray for peace in Nigeria and these places.”

The Church of the Brethren is a Christian denomination committed to continuing the work of Jesus Christ peacefully and simply, and to living out its faith in community. The denomination is based in the Anabaptist and Pietist faith traditions and is one of the three Historic Peace Churches.

It celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2008. It counts some 125,000 members across the United States and Puerto Rico, and has missions and sister churches in Nigeria, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and India.

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