JOS, Nigeria (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 (see, “Christians Targeted in Nigeria’s University Killings, Students Say,” Oct. 5, 2012).
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.”
Regina Luka on her hospital bed after attack in Plateau state. (Morning Star News photo)
KOGOM TAH, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Regina Luka does not know whether it was rogue soldiers or Islamic terrorists who invaded her dual-family dwelling here and killed 10 Christians; she only knows her husband and two young children are dead.
The 20-year-old Luka was recovering from gunshot and machete wounds on her legs and back when she spoke with Morning Star News about the attack on Feb. 21 in Kogom Tah, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Jos in central Nigeria’s Plateau state.
From her bed at Vom Christian Hospital about six miles from the village, she said she and her brother-in-law’s family had gathered in front of their joint-home compound to discuss burial arrangements for their recently deceased grandfather when gunmen began shooting sporadically at them.
“I ran into our house and straight into our bedroom to take cover and to ensure that my children were safe, but minutes after getting into the room, some gunmen forced their way into the room, shooting and cutting anyone they found with machetes,” the tearful Luka recounted.
Flying bullets forced her to dive under a bed, but the assailants dragged her out, cut her back with a machete and shot her buttocks and leg.
“Six of us had run into that room, but five were killed while I was the lone survivor in the room,” Luka said. “Those who attacked us thought I was dead, and so they left.”
Dual-home attacked by suspected Islamic extremists in Kogom Tah village, Plateau state. (Morning Star News photo)
In that bedroom, her 30-year-old brother-in-law, Jacob Musa, was killed along with his wife, Naomi Jacob, 25, and their three children: Blessing Jacob, 5; Dachollom Jacob, 4; and Ayuba Jacob, 1. Killed in another room in the dwelling was her husband, Luka, and their two children, 4-year-old Aaron Luka and 2-year-old Mary Luka.
Also killed were relatives Dawan Musa, 18, and 15-year-old Benjamin Joseph.
Along with Regina Luka, 15-year-old John Dalyop was wounded in the attack. A nurse at the hospital, Chundung Badung, said Regina Luka’s gunshot and machete wounds were very serious and that she had required a blood transfusion.
“Right now she cannot afford to pay for medical bills, because her husband and children were killed in the attack,” Badung said. “So an NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] has provided her with some free medications. She needs support from others who may be moved by the Spirit to assist her.”
The slain relatives had worshiped at New Life Christ Church, one of four churches in Kogom Tah village. The Rev. John Mwatbang, the 58-year-old pastor of their church, said he was sitting with his family at home at about 7:30 p.m. when he heard gunshots about two kilometers away.
“I quickly instructed my family to remain indoors while I found out what was going on there,” he said. “I knew that members of my church must be in danger, as I heard shootings without end. By the time I got to Regina’s house, the attackers had left, and I saw 10 dead bodies in the compound.”
The identities of the assailants were unknown. Ethnic Fulani herders, primarily Muslim, have longstanding tribal conflict with predominantly Christian farmers from the Berom tribe, and Islamic terrorist groups have aided and encouraged Fulani attacks on Christian areas.
Some residents reportedly said the assailants wore military uniforms, and others said Special Task Force (STF) personnel charged with preventing such attacks did not come after receiving emergency calls. An STF spokesman later said local residents attacked the STF forces, preventing them from reaching the site. Claiming the assailants were STF soldiers, Vwang District head Choji Balack reportedly said the Fulani could not “carry out such shooting.”
Whether Fulanis, trained terrorists or Muslim extremist soldiers breaking ranks with the STF, Mwatbang and other residents said the onslaught had all the markings of previous Islamist assaults.
“There is no doubt that this is an Islamic agenda,” Mwatbang told Morning Star News. “It is a plan to wipe us Christians out of this part of Nigeria.”
Killings by suspected Islamic extremists make going to church – or buying groceries – difficult.
The Rev. John Mwatbang of New Life Christ Church. (Morning Star News photo)
The pastor, whose church was established in 1960 and has about 350 members, said that in spite of complaints to the Nigerian government about how the area has become a terrorist target, the administration has made no serious effort at protection. The slaughter was the second in the area in less than a year, he said.
Plateau state lies between Nigeria’s primarily Muslim north and largely Christian south. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent. Nigerians practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according toOperation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.
For the surviving members of the Kogom Tah Christian community, village life feels like walking through a minefield.
“We do not know the hour or the time the attackers would come back to attack us again,” said a resident who declined to give his name.