Christians defy Boko Haram insurgency in Chibok
Report by Hassan John
Christians in north-eastern Nigeria, especially in the predominantly Christian villages around Gwoza and Chibok, have remained resolute in their faith despite the attacks by the former Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, now called Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA), popularly called Boko Haram, which launched a campaign, since 2010 to establish Sharia law in the country and to force Christians to either convert to Islam or be killed.
Chibok has had it fair share of attacks but “children and adults still gather in Churches to fellowship, despite the situation. There is no Church in Chibok Local Government council, you can say the insurgency has stopped them from coming to worship, there is not one.” The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Chibok, Rev Philip Madu said.
In its 10-year-old insurgency, five years since the abduction of about 300 schoolgirls in the village and later declaration of an Islamic Caliphate in the region, Boko Haram Jihadists have destroyed hundreds of Churches and killed thousands of Christians displacing over 2 million people.
Expressing the resilience of the Church, Rev Madu said “Christians have now adopted the strategy of coming to Church as early as 6:00 am due to the threats by the insurgents.”
“I want to assure you that even Katamaru, which was attacked three weeks ago, the attack was on a Friday and their Churches were destroyed, but on Sunday all the Christians, regardless of their denominations, gathered and worshipped in a primary school,” the CAN chairman told Global Christian News in Chibok last week. “This threat cannot stop us from serving God unless we are dead.” Today, he said proudly, “you will find congregations of between 200 to 600 meeting, and up to 22 churches meet now in Chibok. Presently we may be facing all sorts of trials but let me assure you that the Church is still standing,” Madu stressed.
Global Christian News reporters experienced the difficulty of travelling to Chibok and how the village has been quarantined with large trenches around the village. Movement in and out of the village is closely monitored by well-armed soldiers at a long narrow checking point with armoured vehicles and trucks mounted with magazine guns.
Travelling out of the besieged village is frustrating. “We will leave Chibok to Maiduguri (what is supposed to be two and half hour’s trip) by 7:00 am and may not get to Maiduguri till about 5:00pm. The reason is I have to pass to Danboa, go to Biu, pass through Mirinha, pass through Buratai to Bunin Yadi, go through Damaturu to Dameshek to get to Maiduguri. On the road you meet several military check-points and the soldiers will force all passengers in the vehicle to come out of the vehicles and walk for metres before re-entering the vehicles to drive on. This will happen at least six to seven times before you get into Maiduguri,” Rev. Madu narrated adding that the transport fare has gone up 400%. “Despite all these challenges, we worship our Lord Jesus as if there is no tomorrow,” Madu said.
The Boko Haram attacks have forced many Churches to close. “Although many Pastors do not have any salaries or stipends from their Churches or denominations and many have to go to the farms to get money to pay their children’s school fees, that is if the village is safe enough, despite that, all pastors here have resolved to serve the Lord and to die doing so,” Madu said.
One of the Pastors, we named Rev. Dauda for his safety, lives in a refugee camp. He fled from Kamara, walking on foot for several days, when the village was destroyed in a recent attack. He said Muslims come to refugee camps, and villages that have suffered attacks, to exploit their vulnerability. “They come to say, ‘if you become a Muslim, we will give you cash and materials and get you out of this condition,’ I have seen some, especially some young unmarried women succumb to these enticements,” Dauda told Global Christian News.
“The problem is not only Muslims using the miseries of Christians to convert them, it is even Christian denominations discriminating and favouring members of their own Churches whenever they bring any assistance. I stood and watched when a large church denomination from southern Nigeria, brought some relief items and gave only to their members and left,” Dauda said.
“But even with that, we are very sure and confident that Christians in the north east, especially from these communities here, will never convert to Islam we will rather die than to deny our Lord Jesus Christ, at least Leah Sharibu and most of our daughters (Chibok Schoolgirls) still with Boko Haram, remaining in their faith, is a proof of what we are saying,” Rev. Dauda said in a calm determined voice looking at a new ESV Bible and Richard Wurmbrand’s ‘Tortured for Christ’, he just got from Camiola Global Resource in his hand.
Chibok local Government council has over 100,000 people located in over 17 villages. In 2014 Boko Haram declared a Caliphate in Gwoza and took control of the region including Chibok where it had abducted about 300 schoolgirls. Since the declaration of its Islamic Caliphate, the Islamic terrorist organisation has been in control of most of the predominantly Christian communities in north-eastern Nigeria, despite the claim of the Nigerian army of defeating the terrorists.