The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, known in Hausa as Ekklesiyya Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), says it has lost over 8,370 members to Boko Haram violence in Northeastern Nigeria.
EYN President, Reverend Joel Billi, made the disclosure at a world news conference organised in Yola, Adamawa State.
He said 25,000 members of the church were currently taking refuge in neighbouring Cameroon, while more than 700,000 were in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.
“It could be recalled that EYN has lost over 8,370 members and eight pastors with the numbers increasing on a daily basis.
“Over 700,000 members are displaced and about 25, 000 are currently taking refuge in Cameroon and Chad Republics.
“About 300 of the 586 churches have been either burnt or destroyed with an uncountable number of houses belonging to our members looted or burnt too,” Billi added.
“EYN had four District Church Councils (DCC) prior to the insurgency in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State of which none is existing today.’
He added that although there are people now in Gwoza and Pulka, all displaced communities behind the Gwoza Hills are still not inhabited
The EYN president commended the renewed zeal by the military and other security agents in tackling the menace.
He, however, called on the Federal Government and the state governments of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to, as a matter of urgency, rescue the remaining abducted Chibok schoolgirls and reunite them safely with their families.
“I also call, with a loud voice, on the Federal Government, under President Muhammadu Buhari, to rescue Leah Sharibu, Alice Loksha and hundreds of others abducted by Boko Haram,” he stated.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has waged a violent insurgency campaign in northeast Nigeria. The violence has left more than 30,000 people dead and displaced over two million.
President Buhari writing in a guest opinion column in Christianity Today, on February 3, 2020, said, the perception that members of the sect were always targeting Christians in Nigeria is not true.
According to him, the terrorists have targeted vulnerable Nigerians without discrimination.
“It is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslims,” Buhari said.
Sources, knowledgeable with the operations of Boko Haram, said the Christian population, mainly in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe that are affected by the insurgency do not get the option of staying back in their ancestral homes and continue practising their faith.
“If you are a Christian, the only option to stay alive is to abandon Christianity. If you refuse, you will either be killed or taken as a slave by Boko Haram.
“Meanwhile Muslims in the same communities that are not linked to western education or work for the government can be spared,” said a Boko Haram knowledge expert.