The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, known locally as Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria – or EYN Church – has been a direct target of an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria attacks. Many of the families of the more than 200 girls kidnapped in April from their school in Chibok are members of EYN Church.
The church, founded by American missionaries in 1923, claims 180,000 members.
World Watch Monitor met with EYN President Rev. Samuel Dali, to discuss the abductions in Chibok.
How do the families see God in such difficult circumstances?
As church leader, I visited Chibok just a week after the attack with the aim of comforting them. But it was such an emotional meeting as the parents recounted their ordeal to us. I was so devastated myself and started crying. I personally raised the question why should God allow such a thing to happen? But the parents were strong in their faith and one of them comforted me. He said such evil will sometimes happen, and when it happens we only have to rely on God and then hope God will change the situation. The situation has strengthened their faith at that time. But since the issue continues to happen, some are still asking why should God allow something like this to happen? But the majority is strong in their faith and still relying on God, hoping for God to do something, since the government has failed them, and nobody is helping them.
How did you manage to comfort the affected families?
As the international community has raised their voice, I told them that probably God will use this situation to liberate Nigeria from these terrorist activities. I told them to be patient and eventually these things will be a story and we will have a better life in the future. Chibok was not known even by many Nigerians. But when this happens, it put Chibok in global map, and people begin to call Chibok. This raised the hope of Chibok people that the world has known them with their problems, and they will come and help them since the immediate government, close to them, could not do anything.
What’s the position of Nigeria government on this issue?
Actually the position of the federal government is ambiguous. They keep saying that the perpetrators of this attack will not go unpunished. And they will do anything possible to make sure these girls where brought back to their parents. And they also said, when they are rescued they will plan to rehabilitate the life of these girls, and provide better conditions and better education in the future. But this is just a promise. Because as the time passed, the parents feel that the government is deceiving them. Initially I thought maybe there was some security reasons why the government is taking a careful procedure to make sure these terrorists were not provoked, so that they can handle the girls. I thought it was a security tactic. But as it’s taking too long, especially when the international community came with sophisticated technology and yet things are getting too slow, this dashed my hope that something is going to happen.
Do you share the view that the army is not doing enough to protect the population?
Since the kidnapping of the school girls, these terrorists have intensified their attacks with other kidnappings of women and killings of people. Actually most of these communities have fled to neighboring Cameroon or to nearby villages in Adamawa State or elsewhere. They are all running around because the army who are stationed in that area are handcuffed. Whenever the communities asked them for help, they will always say, ”well we are not strongly empowered enough to deal with the situation.” The insurgents are more powerful than them, and some of them sometimes say, ”well, our commander didn’t allow us to interfere in this kind of situation.” So the soldiers didn’t give hope to the population in that area. It has been there for a long time and people have been killed, and nobody heard about their stories. The Chibok girls’ kidnapping has just highlighted the intensity of insurgent activities in northeastern Nigeria. But I am not sure if the world actually understands what’s going on, especially in this rural area.