Martina Shindledecker of Westminster hugs Musa Mambula, national spiritual advisor to EYN - Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, after he spoke Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 at Meadow Branch Church of the Brethren in Westminster about the violence being perpetrated in Nigeria by the militant islamist group Boko Haram.
Martina Shindledecker of Westminster hugs Musa Mambula, national spiritual advisor to EYN - Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, after he spoke Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 at Meadow Branch Church of the Brethren in Westminster about the violence being perpetrated in Nigeria by the militant islamist group Boko Haram. (DYLAN SLAGLESTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The small, peaceful gathering Sunday afternoon at a church in Westminster stood as a stark contrast to the reports presented to the congregation of violence in the west African nation of Nigeria.

As Pastor Tom Richard, of Meadow Branch Church of the Brethren in Westminster, prepared to introduce the afternoon's speaker, Musa Mambula, he said though the crowd gathered was small, he was happy that people chose to attend the event.

Advertisement

"We may not look forward to hearing what is happening [in Nigeria] but it's an opportunity to learn about the dire situation," Richard said.

Mambula, the national spiritual adviser to Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, a Christian organization also known as EYN which has partnered with the Church of the Brethren, spoke to more than 20 people who had gathered to hear about atrocities being committed by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram against the Nigerian people.

Boko Haram, Mambula said, is a group whose name means "Western education is forbidden." It has officially been categorized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government, he said.

The terrorist group is on a rampage, Mambula said.

"They are on a holy war of Jihad and are trying to convert everyone to Islam," he said. "They want to reach all the way through Africa up to Spain."

Mambula compared the state of the Nigerian people to Americans after 9/11. The attacks in New York, on the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania caused shock and grief, which transformed into fear and anger.

"This is what Boko Haram has been doing," he said. "Because of these attacks, the functioning of our brains and muscles have drastically been affected and our focus on fear has caused us to freeze."

Boko Haram began concentrating its efforts in Nigeria in 2009, when Abubakar Muhammad Shekau took over as the organization's leader. Described by the EYN as part intellectual and part gangster, Shekau has been quoted as saying, "I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill just like I enjoy killing rodents, insects and roaches."

Of the 50 districts that make up the EYN in Nigeria, 38 have been destroyed and six have been pressured to shut down, Mambula said. Only seven remain operational. Out of 456 congregations, 278 have been burnt to the ground, he said, and out of the 2,280 local church branches, 1,390 have been destroyed.

"We only have on record what's been reported, but so far 8,000 EYN members have been killed and over 700,000 have been displaced," Mambula said. "Six pastors have been killed and two ordained ministers have been kidnapped; one has three children, aged 5, 7 and 8, who were also kidnapped and nothing is known about their whereabouts."

Shekau and the Boko Haram do not discriminate between Christians and moderate Muslims, he said.

Four days ago, the terrorist group went to a predominantly Muslim village, and kidnapped 185 women and children, and killed 32 men. On Saturday, Mambula said, they attacked another town, gathered all the Muslims — including men, women and children — and shot them all under a tree near a mosque.

Mambula has been visiting churches throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland since November in an attempt to inform Americans of these atrocities and to raise money to help those who have been displaced. He will continue his speaking tour until mid-January.

The Church of the Brethren, a worldwide Christian outreach organization of which Meadow Branch is a member, has promised to match all donations up to $500,000. At Sunday's gathering in Westminster, Meadow Branch Church collected more than $2,000, Richard said. As of Sunday evening, Tambala's speaking tour had raised roughly $140,000, according to the Church of the Brethren's website.

Advertisement

Richard also said Meadow Branch will donate to the fund.

"We have a leaky roof which we will need to put some money into, but it could leak for a couple years and nobody will die from it," he said. "Doing good over there is more important than fixing a leaky roof."

The money will be used to build trauma healing centers, schools and to help settle those who have been displaced, Mambula said. It will also be used to buy mosquito netting, clean water and blankets for the 24,000 people who live in one the four refugee camps run by the EYN. In the camps, the church also cares for 4,000 Muslims who have been displaced by Boko Haram, he said.

Mambula said the EYN will continue to respond peacefully to Boko Haram by spreading the love of Jesus Christ through compassion, mercy and forgiveness.

"Revenge we will leave to God," he said.

Richard said the Church of the Brethren is dedicated to a non-violent approach to restoring peace to Nigeria, but is uncertain how such a restoration will be accomplished.

"I guess through God all things are possible," he said.

Mambula also said Boko Haram's attacks are ultimately futile. All that they destroy is superficial, he said.

"The more you kill us, the more we become faithful believers," he said. "The more you persecute us, the more powerful we become."

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

How to donate:

Those wishing to donate to the Nigeria Crisis Fund can do so by visiting http://www.brethren.org/partners/nigeria/crisis.html.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement