Monday, November 11, 2013

Newsline: November 11, 2013


Brethren Disaster Ministries challenges church to raise $500,000 for Typhoon Haiyan response

Damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Northern Iloilo, Philippines
Photo courtesy of ACT/Christian Aid
Damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Northern Iloilo, Philippines.
By Roy Winter and Jane Yount of the Brethren Disaster Ministries staff

Please pause for a moment and pray for all impacted by the widespread devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and Vietnam. With extensive loss of life and destruction, our prayers are desperately needed for all who are left homeless, all who lost loved ones, and all whose lives have been terribly disrupted.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is intent on organizing a response that will focus Brethren resources on the areas of greatest need by working with partners already active in the Philippines and Vietnam. An initial grant of $35,000 already is being sent to support emergency operations and life saving support. Our goal is to raise at least $500,000 to expand this initial work into the long-term rebuilding of homes and lives.

This massive storm caused a path of destruction hundreds of miles wide with sustained winds reported at 195 miles per hour and gusts much higher. These winds are equivalent to a giant F4 tornado. While search and rescue efforts are still underway, the loss of life is reported to be in the thousands and may grow into the tens of thousands. The hardest hit city of Taclaban is reported to be totally flattened, while many other cities are heavily impacted and some reported still underwater. Less information is known about the destruction in Vietnam.

Please support the Brethren response to Typhoon Haiyan. Your support and prayers are needed.  Donations may be given online at or sent by mail to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

-- Roy Winter is associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries. Jane Yount serves as coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Source: 11/11/2013 Newsline

Church of the Brethren general secretary takes part in plenary on peace

General secretary Stan Noffsinger helps lead the peace plenary at the WCC 10th Assembly
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
“When Jesus said ‘Love your enemies,’ I think he probably meant don’t kill them,” said Stan Noffsinger at the plenary on peace at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly. He was quoting a popular Brethren bumper sticker written by San Diego-based peacemaker Linda Williams.

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger was asked by the WCC to present at the peace plenary on behalf of the peace churches. His part in the event followed a conversation between Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate and leader in the women’s movement that helped stop the war in Liberia, Korean theologian Chang Yoon Jae who is an advocate for a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and South African church leader Thabo Makgoba who moderated the session.

The stage was set like an outdoor café, with a group of young adults observing from bleachers, raising up signs for peace and bringing the sounds of drums and songs to the event.

A powerful moment

Noffsinger invited forward two of the young adults--Agata Abrahamian from the Armenian Apostolic Church in Iran and Fabian Corrales, a scholar in disabilities studies in Costa Rica--to tell their stories.

It was a powerful moment as an American church leader stood with an Iranian Christian. Abrahamian talked about how the sanctions against Iran adversely affect people like her family. “Every day I see and I feel how ordinary people are struggling with problems...caused by the sanctions,” she said. “And I hope that the sanctions will be removed soon.”

Three speakers at the peace plenary include Nobel Peace Laureate Gbowee
PHoto by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Noffsinger showed his emotion as he responded. “What courage to speak truth to power,” he said. “May God have mercy on our souls.”

He then turned to Corrales, and explained that the two had met at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica. Corrales, who is hearing impaired, shared through spoken word and signing. “Brothers and sisters, hear me, as I cannot hear you,” he said. “It’s time to be a church of God, a church of action.... I want you to look beyond my disability, beyond my country and nation. I want you to look beyond what makes us different.... The message of God [is] love one another.”

A peace church witness

In his own remarks to the plenary, Noffsinger highlighted some of the understandings of the Church of the Brethren peace witness. But he also confessed there have been times when the church was tempted “to walk away from Jesus’ command to love.”
Screens display a favorite Church of the Brethren peace bumper sticker
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

He lifted up the Church of the Brethren witness to the sinfulness of war, the witness of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) during a difficult time in Nigeria, and the church’s call to “live on the margins.” He also spoke of the “cost to our own souls” if Christians rely on weapons and violence.

Noffsinger cast the peace witness and the Christian commitment to nonviolence as a “movement toward the cross, a movement on the way of Jesus...a call to engage in radical, compassionate discipleship.”

A personal confession

In a Facebook post the night before, Noffsinger wrote about how he first heard the Iranian woman’s story during a rehearsal for the plenary. It became a moment of personal confession for him, he wrote. “She finished her story and I looked at her and said, ‘I cannot speak for my government, but as for me, I am so sorry that I have not spoken loudly enough over the voices of hatred and fear so that the sanctions might stop.’

A celebration and photos at the end of the peace plenary
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
“When the other is a sister or brother in Christ, how can we keep silent about violence imposed by those we elect?” Noffsinger wrote. “Being a peace church doesn't not mean [being] complacent or standing idly by while violence continues in our world, in our land, in our cities, and in our neighborhoods. Jesus calls us into the midst of this chaos to speak God's shalom and Christ's peace.

“Being followers of Jesus, it also means carrying the burden of our sin before our sister or brother, that we might be forgiven and the community of the people of the Cross might again be one.”

Find the WCC release about the peace plenary, “Busan assembly highlights significance of peace,” at A recording of the webcast of the peace plenary may be available in the future.

Source: 11/11/2013 Newsline

World Council of Churches Assembly adopts statement on just peace

Delegates hold up orange cards signifying their support for inclusion of conscientious objection in the statement on just peace
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Delegates hold up orange cards signifying their support for inclusion of conscientious objection in the statement on just peace
A “Statement on the Way of Just Peace” was adopted by the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly on Friday, Nov. 8, with an expression of strong support from the delegate body.

“Just peace is a journey into God’s purpose for humanity and all creation,” the statement’s first paragraph asserts. “It is rooted in the self-understanding of the churches, the hope of spiritual transformation and the call to seek justice and peace for all. It is a journey that invites us all to testify with our lives.”

The statement follows on a series of conferences and documents focusing on the concept of “just peace,” undertaken in conjunction with the council’s Decade to Overcome Violence that ended in 2010. A main document, the Ecumenical Call to a Just Peace, has been adopted by the Central Committee of the WCC. The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation held in Jamaica produced a message on just peace that was received with appreciation in peace church circles.

Also informing the ecumenical conversation on just peace was an “economy of life” document highlighting economic issues as they affect life in the world today, as well as ecological problems and concerns about climate change.

Nate Hosler reads the recommendations of the just peace statement to the delegate body
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Nate Hosler of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness, who also served on the WCC Assembly's Public Issues Committee, reads the recommendations of the just peace statement to the delegate body
A series of conferences held by the Historic Peace Churches in several continents of the world helped contribute a peace church perspective to the overall ecumenical conversation.

The “Statement on the Way of Just Peace” includes sections titled “Together We Believe,” “Together We Call,” “Together We Commit,” and “Together We Recommend” with a number of recommendations to the World Council of Churches and its member bodies, and recommendations to governments.

Subtitles in the section on call pull on the four peacemaking emphases highlighted at the convocation in Jamaica and the message that emerged from that gathering: “For just peace in the community--so that all may live free from fear,” “For just peace with the earth--so that life is sustained,” “For just peace in the marketplace--so that all may live with dignity,” and “Just peace among nations--so that human lives are protected.”

Recommendations to the WCC and the churches

The recommendations start off with a call for the WCC and its member churches and specialized ministries to undertake “critical analysis of the ‘Responsibility to Prevent, React, and Rebuild’ and its relationship to just peace, and its misuse to justify armed interventions.”

Recommendations to the WCC and churches also call for support to just peace ministries, nonviolence prevention and nonviolence as a way of life, communication strategies that adovcate for justice and peace, advocacy with regard to international norms and laws, encouragement of interfaith programs to address conflicts in multi-religious societies, environmental efforts and the use of alternate sources of renewable and clean energy as a part of peacemaking, sharing of resources in line with the “economies of life” concept, work with international bodies on human rights protections, nuclear disarmament, and the Arms Trade treaty.

Two of the peace church leaders who were in the delegate body to support the statement on just peace
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Two of the peace church leaders who were in the delegate body to support the statement on just peace: at left Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger, at right Fernando Enns of the Mennonite Church in Germany, who was one of those requesting conscientious objectiion to be explicity supported in the document coming out of the 10th Assembly. He reminded the assembly that Korea Mennonites and other conscientious objectors in South Korea are being imprisoned, with an estimate of some 700 COs in prison.
After repeated requests from the floor for the statement to include a reference to conscientious objection, the final revision reaffirmed support for the WCC’s existing policy that supports conscientious objection.

Recommendations to governments

Recommendations to governments started off with a strongly worded call for action on climate change. The recommendation to “adopt by 2015 and begin implementing binding regulations with targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions” kicked off a list of recommendations on other issues that relate to the viability of life on the planet including nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, cluster munitions, drones and other robotic weapon systems.

Governments are called to “reallocate national military budgets to humanitarian and developmental needs, conflict prevention, and civilian peace-building initiatives” and to “ratify and implement the Arms Trade Treaty by 2014 and on a voluntary basis include weapon types not covered by the ATT.”

The full text of the statement is at

Source: 11/11/2013 Newsline

Assembly adopts documents addressing concerns for unity, politicization of religion and rights of religious minorities, peace on the Korean Peninsula, among others.

Two young Korean Christian volunteers pose with a banner of the WCC Assembly theme
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Two young Korean Christian volunteers pose with a banner of the WCC Assembly theme
The WCC Assembly adopted a number of documents addressing public issues, a statement on unity, and a “message” coming out of the experience of the assembly.

In addition to just peace (see the Newsline report at ), the documents addressed the politicization of religion and the rights of religious minorities, peace on the Korean Peninsula, and the human rights of stateless people, among several other situations of concern for the ecumenical movement.

A number of the documents were adopted in an extra business session on the last day of the assembly after it became clear the delegates did not have time to discuss all of the remaining business items. The delegate body agreed to the moderator’s suggestion to decide to adopt the documents by consensus, without discussion. However, one of the proposed documents on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy did not receive enough support, and was referred to the WCC Central Committee.

The most prominent statements adopted by this assembly had been initiated through an “intensive process, which involved the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, the WCC officers, and the WCC executive and central committees in 2012 and 2013,” said a WCC release.

The statement titled “Politicization of Religion and Rights of Religious Minorities” calls on the global ecumenical community to mediate with their respective governments “to develop policies of providing effective protection of persons and communities belonging to minority religions against threats or acts of violence from non-state actors.” It also calls for “concerted and coordinated efforts on the part of religious, civil society and state actors in order to address violations of rights of religious minorities and their freedom of religion and belief.” (Read the full statement at .)

A creative expression of the WCC Assembly theme, using cut outs from cardboard boxes
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A creative expression of the WCC Assembly theme, using cut outs from cardboard boxes
The statement on “Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula” calls for “a creative process for building peace on the Korean peninsula” through measures such as halting military exercises and foreign intervention, and reducing military expenditures.  (Read the full statement at .)

A statement on the “Human Rights of Stateless People” calls on churches “to engage in dialogue with states to adopt policies which confer nationality to stateless people and provide proper documentation.” It encourages churches and other organizations and the United Nations to collaborate effectively to reduce and eradicate statelessness. Haitian Brethren in the Dominican Republic are among the people threatened by statelessness for whom this statement is pertinent. (Read the full statement at .)

Members of a Korean Christian group promoting a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Members of a Korean Christian group promoting a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy
Other statements and minutes adopted by the assembly address:
The message of the assembly titled “Join the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace” is at

The assembly’s statement on unity is at

Source: 11/11/2013 Newsline

African moderator is historic choice for WCC, elections also name Noffsinger to Central Committee

The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches has chosen a new Central Committee to serve for the period until the next assembly is held. Among the 150 delegates selected for the Central Committee is Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger.

According to a WCC release, three others from the historic peace churches also have been elected to the Central Committee: Fernando Enns of the Mennonite Church in Germany, Anne Mitchell of the Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Ann Riggs of the Friends General Conference..

In an historic choice, the Central Committee has chosen its first woman and African to serve as moderator, according to another WCC release. “In one of their first decisions as the Central Committee for the World Council of Churches, the newly installed 150-member committee made history Friday by electing Dr. Agnes Abuom of Nairobi, from the Anglican Church of Kenya, as the moderator of the highest WCC governing body,” the release said. “Abuom, who was elected unanimously to the position, is the first woman and the first African in the position in the 65-year history of the WCC.”

Eight new presidents also have been chosen to represent the major areas of the globe. WCC presidents promote ecumenism and interpret the work of the WCC, especially in their respective regions. They are ex-officio members of the WCC Central Committee:
  • Africa: Mary Anne Plaatjies van Huffel, Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa
  • Asia: Sang Chang, Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea
  • Europe: Anders Wejryd, archbishop in the Church of Sweden
  • America and Caribbean: Gloria Nohemy Ulloa Alvarado, Presbyterian Church in Colombia
  • North America: Mark MacDonald, bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada
  • Pacific: Mele’ana Puloka, Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga
  • Eastern Orthodox: H.B. John X Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East
  • Oriental Orthodox: H.H. Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
-- This article includes information from World Council of Churches releases. Find the full list of elected Central Committee members at

Source: 11/11/2013 Newsline

Ecumenical conversation works at new definition of ‘security’

Ecumenical conversation 1
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The ecumenical conversation on “human security” at the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly was an exercise in changing the concept of what security means, as well as opening minds and hearts to the suffering of those who live in insecurity around the world.

Engaging the issues

The ecumenical conversations at the WCC Assembly were opportunities for participants to delve deeply into one particular current issue facing the worldwide church. They also were designed to give guidance for the work of the WCC staff in coming years. The way the official description put it, ecumenical conversations were for “harvesting affirmations and challenges to the WCC and the wider ecumenical movement.”

Ecumenical conversation 2
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Participants were encouraged to commit to one ecumenical conversation for the four days they were offered, an hour and a half each afternoon. Topics for the 21 ecumenical conversations ranged from new ecumenical landscapes to moral discernment to developing effective leadership to mission in changing contexts. Groups discussed the Korean peninsula and the Middle East, children’s rights and healing ministries, among other topics of interest.

At the end of the process, each ecumenical conversation turned in a one-page document outlining the important points that surfaced over the four sessions. The 21 documents were printed up and shared with the Assembly’s delegate body.

Redefining security

There is a changing definition of the concept of security, participants learned in the ecumenical conversation titled “Human security: Towards sustaining peace with justice and human rights.”
A leadership team from the Philippines, United States, Germany, and Ghana, and a member of the WCC staff, kicked off the conversation by inviting several presenters to share biblical and theological reflections, analysis of human rights issues, and stories and case studies of important areas of insecurity in the world today. Presentations were followed up with some time for small group discussion.

A linkage with human rights emerged strongly. So did evidence that a lack of security leads to human suffering, evidenced in tragic stories from the lives of migrant workers in the Arabian Gulf who live in virtual slavery, victims of human trafficking--mostly women and children, internally displaced people and refugees, and stateless people such as those of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic and the Rohyingas in Burma.

Ecumenical conversation 3
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
One recurrent thread in the conversation was suicide, violence against the self, as the only way some victims have to get out of horrific situations. Another thread was the suffering that ensues when violence and weapons are turned against others. And another was economic deprivation and the desperation caused by poverty.

Access to weapons, the continual development of more highly sophisticated weapons, and the amount of resources poured into them emerged as important aspects of human insecurity. Stories from places like Nigeria where the spread of small arms into the civilian population is wreaking havoc. Presenters spoke of the threats to humanity posed by highly sophisticated weapons such as robotic drones, and the threat of nuclear weapons as well as the threat posed to humanity and the environment by nuclear energy and its waste products.

A brief time spent on the idea of “just policing” and related concept of government “responsibility to prevent” violence led one small group to state clearly that the concept requires critical analysis. They expressed the fear that it would be used by some national powers to justify war and military intervention.

Another small group pointed out that the corporate world also holds responsibility for much suffering and human insecurity.

It became clear that in order to work toward peace in our world, the definition of what security means must shift from national security, or military security, to focus instead on what is required for human life. For at least one small group, this boiled down to the basics: food, water, shelter, the foundational requirements for living.

‘Don’t just pray, take action’

The leadership team encouraged participants to consider the question of what role churches play in all this.

Ecumenical conversation 4
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
One person’s response was blunt and to the point: “Don’t just pray, take action,” she said. “Awareness, advocacy, and action, this is what churches can do.”

She spoke out of the experience of working to prevent human trafficking in India, which she took up after finding out that some women she knew had fallen into the hands of traffickers. The traffickers lured the women away from their hometowns with promises of good jobs in far away cities. But when the women went to start what they thought was a new better paying job, they ended up being trapped and enslaved.

“In our spirituality, there needs to be constructive anger,” she said, expressing her own anger at the greed that is fueling this worldwide problem. She cited the statistic that human trafficking has become the second most lucrative industry in the world after the drug trade. “Without anger we cannot seek justice and peace,” she said. “Jesus was angry.”

As well as hearing the stories of suffering, said another woman, it is crucial for the church to listen to stories of courage and resilience. If people do not see glimpses of hope, they become overwhelmed and then are tempted to distance themselves from the problems of the world around them. “We talk about women of courage” in her work with survivors of domestic violence, she said, instead of talking about “victims.”
Ecumenical conversation 5
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

A priest from Russia pointed out the need to share frankly this kind of information with one’s congregation, in order to prevent church members from falling into situations of abuse themselves.

Once that kind of education begins to happen, things will start to change, another church leader pointed out.
Others highlighted a need for churches to be “bridges” to society and government in order to defend and enhance human security. “We need to tell governments that action is required,” one participant said. “This is a matter of political will.”

An Orthodox leader spoke out of the Syrian context, where his church is caught in the midst of a violent civil conflict. Out of his church’s experience, “War is sin,” he said. “War begets war. War will never make peace.”
In this context, he added, the Christian church must seek “peace with justice, or justice with peace. This is what is wanted.”

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren

Source: 11/11/2013 Newsline

Leading EYN through its most difficult time: An interview with Samuel Dante Dali

Samuel Dali at the WCC 10th Assembly
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Samuel Dante Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea
Samuel Dante Dali, president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN--the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), attended the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly as delegate for the Nigerian Brethren. Here he talks about the increase of terrorist violence in northeast Nigeria where members of EYN have been among the many killed in attacks by extremist Islamists.

What is going on with EYN in Nigeria?

“We thought that the situation was getting better, when the government placed a state of emergency in three states. But recently terrorists mobilized especially in Yobe State, attacked churches, military offices, and police, and they also went to other parts of the country where most of our churches are. They attacked Christians from house to house and burned almost every church in the Gwoze and Gavva areas. Most of the EYN church is in these areas close to Cameroun. About 2,000 of our church members have fled to Cameroun as refugees.

“It makes us very worried that some government officials are part of this. The state government could have acted to provide security for the common citizen, especially when [the violence] becomes so intense. But it appears the government is not doing much about it.

“Since the government is not doing anything, people try to mobilize themselves to provide their own local security. Of course they are armless. [Terrorists] come with AK 47s and especially with machine guns. The people cannot face them, but what can they do? They can’t all run to Cameroun.
“We as a church are just praying, and praying. And sometimes we are very confused and depressed because there’s not much you can do. The church cannot mobilize and provide security. The resources aren’t there. And sometimes you can’t have a church service at all. Worship is out of the question in some places.”

How many EYN churches are affected?

“About 30 percent of the whole of EYN. Churches in Maiduguri for example, have a heavy military presence [for protection from terrorists]. The church pays for feeding the soldiers and pays their allowance. That’s how the churches can survive within this kind of situation and have their services on Sunday.”

We have seen news reports of local civilian forces for protection. How is that working?

“I went to Maiduguri, and I heard about the civilian Joint Task Force. I met some of them. They are very young people, some even five years old. With sticks and swords. They were checking every car that goes into Maiduguri. The idea was that some of those Joint Task Force were members of the terrorists before, so they know who the terrorists are. Whenever they find a terrorist, sometimes they beat them, sometimes they take them to security.

“It made me even more angry with our government. How can untrained civilians without arms become a security for the society? And after a few months the terrorists came and ambushed this civilian Joint Task Force and killed about 50 of them at once. So you see the danger.

“In the recent attack that happened, the armed men came from Cameroun, Niger, and Chad, and joined together with Nigerian terrorists to attack Maiduguri. The terrorists are not only Nigerians. They are from the neighboring countries. And of course from Mali. Most of them are trained in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. So it is a global problem.”

Where are they getting their guns and ammunition?

“That is another a big question because the arms are very sophisticated, even anti-aircraft guns. So how are they getting in? Some Nigerian politicians are part of the problem. They import guns for the terrorists and supply them. Recently there was one immigration control officer that was arrested, he was responsible for the terrorists in the Yobe area. If you can find an immigration officer who is part of the group, he is at the border controlling importation of weapons.

“Generally our problem is government politicians who are not interested in the life of the citizens. They are busy fighting one another, so they sponsor this kind of terrorist activities. They themselves do not understand it will get out of control and they will also be affected eventually.”

Is there a strong movement to have two separate states, northern Nigerian and southern Nigeria?

“Because of the tension that has been happening Nigerians have been calling for a national conference to discuss whether Nigeria should live together or separate. This is not going to be good for the country. If Nigeria splits, I think that’s the end of Nigerian society. Nigeria will get into a crisis that will affect the whole of Africa.

“The struggle of Nigeria is not against a foreign-dominated government like in South Sudan. It’s within, against each other. So if it splits, it will not split in two. You will have warlords in different sections of the country fighting one another. By the time the United Nations comes to pacify the situation, they will have killed themselves.”

Does the church have a role to play in the middle of all this?

“Before my recent trip to Indonesia, I thought the church could do nothing other than to develop itself. My thinking has been that we should forget that we have a government. Let us as the church do what we can do for our members within the capacity and the opportunity we have.

“So we are trying in EYN to develop our own schools, to develop our own health service, to promote our own agricultural activities. Even actually try to create a bank for ourselves.

“If the schools are getting bad, we can create a standard and our children will not lose their education. And then if we focus on agriculture, we can show our people how to develop whatever they can develop within their local community. And then with the health service, we may not need a government hospital. And the bank--most of our members send their money in a government bank which is mostly controlled by these politicians. So if we have our own bank, the church will save our own income within this bank so we can give it to our members to do their business, to improve themselves, and to empower themselves economically.

“But when I went to Indonesia, my mind began to change from a narrow focus to a wider focus for Nigeria.”

Say more about this conference in Indonesia.

“Myself and a pastor who is teaching about Islam at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria, a Muslim lady who is participating in an interfaith group with EYN, and the coordinator of the Peace Program of TEKAN [Christian council in northern Nigeria] went with the purpose of sharing our experience as Christians under Muslim persecution in Nigeria and also to hear from them as Christians in a Muslim predominant community.

“The first thing I discovered was that most of the interfaith and peace movement in Indonesia was supported and sponsored by Muslims. And most of the Muslims in Indonesia thought that a true Muslim would never force anyone to be converted to Islam. And that a true Muslim would never kill anybody. They also stress and emphasize diversity and pluralism as phenomena that must be recognized and respected.

“We visited Islamic schools, and in each of these they tried to organize a peaceful and interfaith dialogue with other communities. We went into the third biggest mosque in the world, built with contribution of Christians. And then there is a cathedral, also built with the contribution of Muslims. That gave me the impression that actually not all Muslims are fanatic mad people, the way we have them in Nigeria.”

There is hope that Muslims and Christians can live together in peace?

“Exactly. I am trying to talk about what Indonesia is doing, and trying it in Nigeria.

“For example, during elections we should only vote for people who are interested in peace and bringing the community together. And we should influence the media. We need to write, and speak ourselves, and talk to people, and give them an alternative view of what is happening.

“Even though the church is under persecution we can still focus on addressing some social problems regardless of tribe or religion, that can help the community. In the Christian hospital we visited in Indonesia, five percent of workers are Muslim. In Nigeria we can do something like that, recruit Muslims to work in some of our institutions. If we can get faithful, trained ones. But it will be an enormous challenge.

“That’s my new understanding: I think it’s possible that Christians and Muslims as a community can live together and address the common problems affecting all of us.”

What is one thing you want the church in the US to know about the church in Nigeria?

“That EYN is going through the most difficult time of its existence, and we don’t have a solution. For me, it almost made me resign from the work. People are being killed and I cannot do anything. I say, what is the point of my leadership? It is very difficult. Very, very difficult.

“Church members are taking refuge at Kulp Bible College. Sometimes providing food for them is difficult. EYN depends on offerings from members so when the members are terribly affected, the whole church is affected. Sources of income for the headquarters are gone. It is very painful to see members who have been sources of support to the church, and now they are homeless.

“I’m asking, what is the global church going to do about this global problem? The terrorists have a network. But does the church have a network to handle the problems of the world?

“I think we need to do something more than just a prayer. Of course, prayer is number one. But there’s something else needed to encourage one another. You cannot stop the situation completely but I think it’s important we come close to one another.

“I have received letters from the US, from church members. We compiled them and sent them to all the district church councils in the form of a big book so that the members can read it. The members feel that someone cares about them and someone is worried about their situation. You give them some comfort that they are not alone.”

In a follow up conversation, Dali shared at length and more personally about how the situation has affected him and his church. How can church leadership tell members not to try to defend their homes and families, he asked, expressing the struggle to face a virtually impossible situation and yet maintain a voice for peace.

He characterized the violent extremist Islamist movement as a demonic possession of the spirit of Islam. His greatest fear is that he and others in EYN may let the horrors of the situation push them into enmity, and that demon might possess them as well. There are times he has to stop listening to stories of suffering and death, to protect himself from being overtaken by hatred.

How can Brethren in the US help? No one from outside Nigeria can solve this problem for the Nigerians, Dali said, but US Brethren can help provide disaster relief for refugees and can visit and encourage the Nigerian Brethren with their presence. He requested the sending of volunteer medical personnel, doctors and midwives to work in the hospital EYN plans to develop.

He then asked something more difficult from the American church: in the midst of killing and death, he wants the Church of the Brethren to remind EYN of the need to focus on peace.

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren.

Source: 11/11/2013 Newsline