By VOP Foreign Correspondent, Nigeria
History of Christianity in the Village
Gavva East is a predominantly Christian village in Gwoza local government of Borno State, Nigeria. It lies behind the hills were neighboring Muslim villages considered extreme by some, continually abuse the Christian’s hoping they will leave the region. More than 7,000 Christians lived in the village with over 1,000 attending the Church of Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), and another church hosting 800 Christians per service— with many church ministers attending to the spiritual needs of the members.
The villages were able to produce Christian council members in the local government offices. They fought for the Christians needs, those in poverty and other related human rights issues. Their work resulted in a struggle with the Muslim of community. They suffered intense persecution and were hated for their faith, with many religious clashes and conflicts between them. The Muslims even boycotted the Christians businesses, but the unity among the Christians, helped them to remain strong.
On 4th November, 2013, over 100 insurgents stormed into Gavva East village around 6:40pm. They came with heavy weapons and explosives to destroy the entire village. Their purpose was to make sure the Christians in the community were no more.
The insurgents came from the Mandara mountains, where their headquarters was located. They followed the narrow path that lead to the village through the water reservoir (Dam) located at the entrance of the village. Upon their arrival, they grabbed an elderly Christian called Musa Kidama (75 yrs) whose house was near the dam. They shot the old man in the leg, cut his head and slashed his throat. Afterwards they went straight to the town and started destroying the houses, shops and killed anything that moved, including the animals.
The Christians had been on alert and prepared for impending attacks. Many times in the past and without success, they had tried to overpower the Christian village. The day of the invasion, they were left with an option to face the insurgents, or evacuate. The women and children had been trained to escape as to go unnoticed. The Christians crawled on the ground to the hills and caves to hide. This reduced the death toll to only 3 villagers. Ishaku Tagmala (50), with 6 children, John Musa Ruwa (53) with 8 children and Musa Kadama (75) with 3 children. All were caught unarmed, their bodies cut to pieces and throats slit. Some who had been hiding witnessed the event. They told our correspondent that the insurgents became enraged when they could not find more Christians to kill. And why the attack was so harsh and the victims brutally killed.
Christians homes singled out by insurgents
A well known leader of the village who demanded anonymity, spoke with our correspondent about the conspiracy of the Muslims that were living in their midst. He stated that when the insurgents reached the main town, he saw a Muslim villager following the attackers and pointing at Christian houses, shops and vehicles to be destroyed. The Muslim’s property, houses, vehicles and animals were left untouched. It seemed it had been pre-planned by the Muslim community who had given direction to the insurgents for the horrific strike on the village.
He recalled that Christians and Muslims had been living in the same apartment building in the neighborhood. Lead by the Muslim neighbor, the insurgents burnt the Christian dwellings, while sparing the Muslim apartment. Witnesses claimed the insurgents must have been informed by an insider. The Christians affected commented that the insurgents were very bias in the attack. “The Muslims animals were not touched. Even animals owned by Christians in close proximity to a Muslim resident were spared. Any near Christian properties, were killed. It was very clear that even the untagged animals were targeted based on religion that day. The attackers took the Christians property as spoils of war, a religious war.
EYN CHURCH N0. 3 (GAVVA EAST)
When the attackers discovered that all the Christians had escaped to other villages and the hills, they headed to the Church of Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) lead by Rev. James I. Hena. It was a large church with a seating capacity of over 1000 people.
The insurgents bombed the church completely burning it down. All musical instruments, chairs, transportation vehicles, books and other relevant documents were destroyed. After making sure the church was completely razed, they proceeded to the homes of church members and savagely looted all their belongings, including livestock, food and other valuable items.
Guided by the indigenous Muslims, they were able to locate the Christian houses and set a total of 63 on fire. They looted items such as 115 bags of corn, 177 goats/sheeps,5 large cows, 35 bags of seed, 68 bags of groundnuts, 17 motor cycles and 15 bicycles, 57 bags of beans, 6 large generators, 50 small generators, chairs, sewing machines. All much needed for their survival.
Eyewitnesses also victimized, told our Nigerian reporter that the extremists came completely prepared to destroy the entire village. They also claimed the Christians were singled out.
They included, Joshua Dawa, Andrawus Digawara, Yusuf Andrawus, John Adamu, Ali Musa, Bitrus Kwaza, Ibrahim Musa, Bitrus Yakubu, Yakubu Zangadah, Andrawus Guyakuma, Joshua Yakubu, Gulas Joseph, Andrawus Bitrus, Bulama Gaya, Musa Zuwarva, Gwani Suka, Yohanna Guyakuma, Bitrus Gwada, Ishaku Joshua and others who are not listed.
Our reporter gathered that Rev. Andrawus Zakariah, an indigenous pastor serving with EYN was targeted to be assassinated by the insurgents, because of his vibrancy in converting souls to Christ. They became infuriated when they were unable to locate him at his residence. They plundered his food, livestock and motor cycle. While chanting “Allahu Akbar,” they set fire to his house and left the village.
EYN CHURCH N0 1 (GAVVA EAST)
After sending the looted items to their camps, the rebels went to destroy the second church and fired rounds at the compound. They burned down the large church with a seating capacity for 800 members, destroying it and everything inside. A Muslim insider went ahead of them and pointed out the Christians properties.
They advanced to the Christian homes of John Lawan Zuwa, Barka Bitrus, John Navwal Hutsa, Ali Tada Vuba, Ayuba Wallah, Andrawus Yava, John Yava, Yohanna Yava, Bitrus Dagwaya, Yohanna Dauda and Luka Dzasa. All the houses were looted, burnt and destroyed by the insurgents.
Another Muslim insider turned their attention to the Christian homes of Yaya Moses, Ali Adamu Madiya, Yohanna Adamu, Rebecca John, Luka Tadda Kwaza, Adamu Musa Fudama, Sule Naghakva, Yusuf Ibrahim Nglamuda, Yusuf Zuwa Wurka, Samsun Kudama, Russa Yusufu, John Zanga, Yusuf Gwalla, Ishaya Ali, Ibrahim Bitrus and many others not recorded.
One of the victims calculated the looted property and destruction. He numbered 53 dwellings set ablaze in the #3 Ward of the town. 15 motorcycles, 5 sewing machines, 12 sets of electronic devices and 88 sets of executive cushions and chairs were destroyed by fire. Others items looted included 89 cows, 36 sheep, mattresses and mats, 7 bags of benniseed, 4 generators and most distressing 439 bags of beans. Devastating for the Christian neighborhood, the much needed items were looted or destroyed by the insurgents.
REDEEMED CHURCH OF GOD (GAVVA EAST)
Crazed by all the destruction, they ramped up their attack when another indigenous Muslim sent them towards the Redeem Church of God. They bombed the small church with explosives and destroyed all it’s contents. Ending their attack, they shot into the air chanting “Alhammudulla”( meaning “thank you Allah”) and fled to their camps.
Motive for the Attack
Our correspondent investigated the details of the damage done to the Christians in Gawa – East. He reported the terror operations carried out against the Christians of the community was disturbing. He noted: During the attack when fires had advanced to the Muslim properties, insurgents had helped the Muslims put the fires out. He concluded the attack was a deliberate attempt by the Muslims in the community to eliminate the Christians. It is apparent by the nature of the operations and the brutal attack against Christians and their properties, while the neighboring Muslims were spared.
Current Situation for the Christians
The Christian community was rendered helpless with barely anything to eat, and scattered as displaced people in the Cameroon Republic. Some went to Adamawa State, others died in their homes, rather than roaming about without anything to eat. Our reporter was moved with compassion when witnessing the difficult circumstances of the women and children who were malnutritioned, exposed to diseases and other ailments in the camps. The situation was hopeless and spiraling out of control, and help is not forthcoming.
Documented evidence proved that the government officials, NGO’s, nor humanitarian agencies had not yet helped the victims and displaced people. The little help that was received came from the Gwoza Christian Community Association (GCCA). They donated a small sum of money and brought relief materials for the emergency needs of the people. Also the (CAN) president donated grains, sleepers, salt and a small sum of cash for the refugees. To this date, the refugees are still suffering from trauma, unsanitary conditions and the lack of daily needs for survival.
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