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Christians to Buhari: Come over to North East and help us

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CHRISTIANS in the embattled North Eastern region have congratulated Gen. Muhammadu Buhari for his recent inauguration as president of Nigeria, stressing that the former military Head of State should make haste to address some of the current imbalances threatening the existence of Christians in the region as suspected Boko Haram members continued the slaughter of Christians with machetes in Pambula-Kwamda, a Christian community in Adamawa’s Madagali Local government Area (LGA).

Buhari in Katsina

In a telephone interview with Vanguard, the North Eastern chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Shuaibu M. Byal prayed God to grant the new president the wisdom to harness the abundant resources in the country for the common good of all.

According to the CAN chairman, indigenous Christians from the region who have been at the receiving end of all terrorist attacks, are already worried about current developments in the National Assembly where tension is daily mounting for the leadership of the two houses.

“Ordinarily, religion should not be a factor in choosing who leads one institution or the other, but recent developments in Nigeria have shown otherwise which is why Christians in the North East are troubled that with current schemings the two houses of the National Assembly may be headed by Muslims,” he opined.

Rev. Byal wondered what will become of the Christians in that region if the Senate president and the Speaker of the House of Representatives turn out to be Muslims, arguing that all this while the Christians have been sidelined in all appointments or representations in the North. “It is no longer news that decisions in most northern states are taken without due consultation of Christians in the region just as appointments are made without consideration of the Christians who are indigenes of the region and who contributed to the electoral victories”, he maintained.

He therefore pleaded with the new administration of Gen. Buhari to give due consideration to some of these injustices in the North with particular reference to the Nort East where qualified Christians are not considered for appointments.

“The president was voted in based on the mantra of change and it will be worth the while of e ery segment of the nation to experience the change and this can be made manifest by appointing qualified Christians to positions where they can make valuable contributions to the nation,” he appealed.

According to him, nothing can be more frustrating than to see people who are less qualified than you are holding offices and lording it over you, for no other reason than your faith.

Reports claim that the Islamists destroyed the telephone mast first before invading the community to prevent “us from telephoning and requesting help,” said an area pastor who requested anonymity for fear of being hunted down by the terrorists. “They killed 10 members of our church [Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, or EYN] using machetes and then slaughtering them.”

Maina Ularamu, council chairman of the Madagali LGA, confirmed the 10 hacking deaths in a statement to journalists, saying reports had reached him only that day due to insecurity in the area and communications difficulties caused by Boko Haram.

Boko Haram was suspected in a suicide bombing of the Christian community of Garkida, Gombi LGA in Adamawa state, on May 19 that killed nine people and a shooting attack on May 16 in Wagga, Madagali LGA, that took the lives of 10 Christians, sources said. The violence was seen as a gesture by Boko Haram to reclaim territory lost to the Nigerian military.

“The attacks killed 19 people in Garkida and Madagali,” said the Rev. Samuel Dante Dali, president of the EYN. “The bombing signals a renewal of violence by the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram at a time when Nigerian authorities are claiming victory in many parts of the northeast.”

Church leaders in the Garkida area confirmed reports of a Boko Haram suicide bombing at the town market on May 19 at about 2 p.m. Lami Aboki of the EYN Church in Garkida told newsmen the attack has deeply unsettled Christians.

“I can’t eat or sleep as the gory sight of the dead bodies keeps haunting me,” Aboki said. “I am leaving this town. We have just returned thinking the place is safe, but from what we have seen, the terrorists are bent on returning here.”

She said the bomb exploded where vegetable sellers, most of them Christians, were stationed. Jerry Kundisi, a Christian legislator from the area, said information from townspeople also indicated that nine persons were killed. Kundisi, an EYN member, said the area is still dangerous in spite of military claims of pushing out Boko Haram.

In Wagga town, Madagali LGA, Boko Haram insurgents invaded on May 16 and killed 10 members of the EYN, church leaders said. Area Christian resident Timothy Wagra said the Boko Haram members attacked at about midnight while the villagers were sleeping.

“The Boko Haram gunmen started shooting sporadically, and at the end of the attack, 10 Christians were killed in the town,” he said, adding that many others were displaced by the attack.

Maina Ularamu, council chairman of the Madagali Local Council, confirmed the attack in a press statement, saying “at least 10” people were killed. The Adamawa State Police Command confirmed both attacks in separate statements. Command spokesman Othman Abubakar said police were investigating.

EYN President Dali stated at the EYN annual congress earlier this month that since Boko Haram accelerated violence in 2009 in its bid to impose Islamic law (sharia) on Nigeria, the denomination has lost 1,390 local church branches out of a total of 2,280. “In all 1,674 worship centers were completely destroyed,” he said. He reported that Boko Haram violence had displaced well over 700,000 EYN members.

After the EYN congress in Jos on May 5-8, Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren-USA, said “the attendees had a sort of shocked expression on their faces. The proceedings were constantly being interrupted by announcements of tragedy – news of a pastor being killed or abducted, or a village being overrun by the terrorist group Boko Haram.”

Dali said that because of the Nigerian government’s refusal to assist the denomination and its membership, EYN had established a Disaster Management Team to minister to suffering members.

“The EYN church leadership has taken her destiny in its hands to forge ahead to reposition, rebuild, and transform the church for the future while providing leadership on the path of its vision, infusing confidence engendered by unshaken belief and faith in the work encouraging the congregation,” Dali said.

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