The impact of Boko Haram violence on one church

Nigeria: How one church lost more than 8,000 members to Boko Haram

A church denomination in northeast Nigeria says Boko Haram has killed more than 8,000 of its members since the start of the insurgency in the region 11 years ago.

In a press conference earlier this month, the president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, Rev. Joel Billi, told journalists the church so far had lost 8,370 members and eight pastors in attacks by the militant Islamist group.

The number is growing, he said, expressing concern about the attacks not being reported. “From the end of last year, 2019, to June 2020, there had been over fifty different attacks on different communities carried out by the Boko Haram and most were either unreported or under-reported by both the print and electronic media,” Billi said.

The violence had affected almost all of the 60 District Church Councils in the region, with more than half of the churches either burnt or destroyed. Many church members had lost their houses to looting or arson, he said.

More than 700,000 church members have been displaced since Boko Haram started its attacks in the region, and at least 25,000 are still living in refugee camps in neighbouring Cameroon. Others have been abducted. Among them are several leaders as well as 217 of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014 and are members of the denomination as well. Six years on, 112 of the girls are still missing.

The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, or Ekklesiyya Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN), is the largest Christian denomination in northeast Nigeria, with branches in neighbouring countries.  It was founded in 1923 by missionaries from the United States.

The Boko Haram insurgency that started in 2009 has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced more than 2 million people.

The attacks by Boko Haram and other Islamist militant groups, including militant Fulani herdsmen, were “systematic … planned … calculated,” the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Argak Kwashi, said in the press call on the situation in Nigeria. There was a clear indication “that their intention is to Islamize Nigeria”, he said.

Open Doors is on the ground, helping provide emergency relief, especially at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local churches have limited capabilities. Please join us in praying for the urgent work that needs to be done at this time. In the midst of the pandemic, persecution continues.


Please pray

Nigeria is in the 12th position on the World Watch List. Please pray for peace, especially in the northeastern region where the extremist group Boko Haram has a stronghold.

Pray for Christians who have lost loved ones in the ongoing violence and also for those who have been displaced. May their hope in the Lord continue to stay strong.


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