Four Nigerian church elders held a Sunday service in their burnt church building on February 23, 2020, two days after Boko Haram militants abducted some of the church’s female members and set fire to the building.
The terrorists’ rampage had destroyed churches, homes, schools and businesses, in the Christian village of Garkida in Gambi Local Government Area of Adamawa State on February 21.
Heavily-armed militants stormed into the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN—the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) during a women’s fellowship meeting and kidnapped some of the Christian women and left the building a burnt out shell.
A local Christian leader said that, in spite of their anguish and shock, the pastors decided to continue to meet together to show that “‘church’ isn’t the building razed down, but the Christians living – the Christian body is the church”.
On the day of the attack, the jihadists approached the village in Adamawa State “in about nine trucks, and more than 50 motorcycles carrying at least two persons on each,” a local eyewitness told Barnabas. The attack lasted around six hours, during which two other churches were also set alight, a local market looted, a health centre burnt down and two ambulances destroyed.
Former Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, took part in a prayer rally for peace, on Sunday, February 23. “Lord, as your people, we bring confession of the needless bloodshed, killings, and attacks by the dreadful Boko Haram insurgents, banditry and the spate of kidnappings and all kinds of evil in various parts of the country. Lord, we plead for your forgiveness, mercy, and cleansing of the land,” he prayed.
The number of attacks by Islamist militant groups has sharply increased, since April 2019. Christians in Nigeria are on high alert, calling for urgent prayer against the onslaught of Boko Haram attacks against them.
Meanwhile, American faith leaders met with representatives of Nigerian communities devastated by Boko Haram and Fulani tribesmen as well as key figures within the Buhari administration as part of a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of escalating insecurity in the West African country.
Johnnie Moore, an evangelical communications executive and president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, traveled to Abuja on February 17 and met with dozens of victims of terrorism from five different Nigerian provinces for three days.
“After our journey there, we want the world to know that you haven’t heard half of it,” the faith leaders said in a joint statement. “The terrorists’ aim is to ethnically cleanse northern Nigeria of its Christians and to kill every Muslim who stands in their way.”
In addition to victims, the two met with the chiefs of staff for both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as part of their quest to determine the severity of the situation. They also met with four Muslim leaders.
Their trip came as thousands have been killed by Boko Haram (an Islamic militant group in Nigeria’s northeast with a splinter faction that has claimed allegiance to the Islamic State) and radical Fulani herdsmen who have in recent years increasingly raided predominantly Christian farming villages in the country’s Middle Belt.