By VOP Foreign correspondent in Nigeria.
Insight report reveals up to 700 homes were burned to the ground in attacks by Boko Haram insurgents, displacing entire Christian community after 11 attacks.
History of the Church in Gavva-West of Gwoza
Gavva Village is located towards the Mandara Mountains in Gwoza local Government of Borno State, Nigeria. The village was richly blessed with natural resources, fertile soil and over 7,000 indigenous Christians. They had the highest number of Pastors, trained over 400 evangelists in many fields and hosted a camp for empowering Christian Women and children. They became predominantly Christian, because fifty three years ago it was the settlement base of a Missionary. The Missionary planted a church and began to spread the Gospel. The people accepted Christ and Christianity spread dynamically. The village developed and expanded into three, they named the villages Gavva 1, 2 and 3 with thousands of converts giving their life to Christ.
When they continued to multiply and the village population grew, land became scarce for farming. A large number of the believers went to the western part of Gwoza and searched for farmland. When they found an area fertile for both agriculture and evangelism, they settled and named the village GAVVA-WEST. God blessed them and made them fruitful. They began preaching the Gospel converting indigenous unbelievers to Christianity from predominantly Muslim and Pagan areas.
The Christians continued to buy lands, build churches, rear animals and grow spiritually and materially. They also became traditional leaders in governing the village. It was a large village comprising of seven leaders (Bulamas) namely: Bulamas Bitrus, Bulama Wasa, Bulama Amos, Bulnama Musa, Bulama Peter, Bulnama Jatau and Bulnama Ibrahim Zigila.
Not wanting to do the hard work of farming, unbelievers sold their properties to Christians. The Christians became empowered with over 600 members and known as a Christian community. They’re main places of worship were the Church of Brethren (EYN), Redeemed Church of God and Deeper Life Bible churches. The prosperity of the Christian community in Gavva-West flourished through farming. Seeing how they had advanced, the Muslim communities in Valengede, Yamtake, Bla Wazin, Bita and Bla Abba became envious of them.
On location, Voice of the Persecuted’s correspondent spoke with Haruna Yakubu (42) married with seven children and a resident of Gavva-West. He stated that there were a total of eleven attacks on the village, the last so devastating it led to the evacuation of the entire community. The Muslims mounting resentment of the area owned and established by Christians, drove them to seek out the Boko Haram to attack and eliminate the Christians. When the villagers were informed of the plans, the leaders reported the matter to the Gwoza Emir. They were told to form a vigilante group to protect their villages, because the insurgence could not be predicted.
Having fully understood the conspiracy to attack the village, they formed a group of youths numbering about 24. Armed with locally made guns and daggers, they called the group to protect the community at every entrance of the village. VOP’s correspondent interviewed one youth called Joshua Haruna (28) married with one child, also a resident and member of the vigilante group. He narrated that they successfully stopped the insurgents from attacking their villages 10 times. On the day of the 11th attack, the insurgents came in mass of over 200 and finally overpowered them. Many were killed, some burned alive, and several people left with bullet wounds. They then looted all the properties and set the village ablaze.
The Perpetual Attacks
Pastor (Rev. Yakubu Dzari) narrowly escaped death after insurgents attacked his head with a machete and dagger. He shared with our reporter his horrible experience. After tying his hands from behind, he explained how God lifted the knife from his throat when they were ready to slay him. He stated, “It was God that saved me, or else I would have been dead by now!”
The First Attack on December 2, 2012, insurgents came around 11pm. They entered the village and shot a villager, Bulama Musa, beat up another named Bulanma Yakubu, then captured the Pastor. When they began to attack him, he put up a struggle to save his life and was able to overpower them, injuring one. The attackers took several motorcycles and fled.
In the beginning of January 2013, seven insurgents came again around 9pm, but were chased away by 16 of the selected vigilantes protecting the village. The insurgents could not penetrate the village and quickly left dropping their shoes and caps.
On January 9, 2013 about nine insurgents came at 11pm. They were unable to succeed because of the dynamic efforts of the vigilant youths. They were seen and chased away firing guns. Seven bullet casings and four live rounds were later found dropped by the terrorists.
On Febuary 9, 2013, four insurgents in disguise came through the back entrance of the village. Again they were noticed and chased off.
On March 9, 2013 in mass, they returned to the village in Hilux pick up vehicles while the youths were playing football in the field. They surrounded the whole village stationing insurgents at all locations. When the youths observed the event taking place, they abandoned their game and went to Baba Musa, a hunter with a license to keep guns. They exchanged fire with the insurgents, but were overwhelmed.
Churches were burnt and they killed a man, Yakubu (76) who was mentally ill and could not run. They also killed Naomi John (54) who was trying to climb a wall for safety. They murdered Maryamu Amthe (72) and shot Bitrus (19) as he was running away. Others were left with serious gunshot wounds, but were still alive. After successfully overtaking the village, they looted the properties and took away 17 motorcycles, other vehicles, livestock and many bags of food. They loaded the items into vehicles and took as captives Bulus Waviga (76), Chabala Musa (35) and Barka Musa (35), but they were later released.
On March 12, 2013, four rebels came around 2pm. They fired gunshots in the air, ransacked and looted a shop, then fled.
On April 27, 2013, they appeared about 9pm numbering seven on motorcycles. They tried to take a golf cart which had no battery. In the process they burnt the car and a nearby home, injuring Haruna Musa (35), Musa (61) who are still in the hospital at the time of this report.
The insurgents struck again on May 27, 2013, the 9th attack. They arrived at 12pm numbering 21 on foot, apparently leaving their transport far off. As usual, the youths foresaw their coming. Noticed by one in the group, Ali Kaduna refused their call when they shouted to him and they were eventually chased away.
Since the primary purpose of the insurgents was to remove the Christians from the village, they returned on August 30, 2013, the 10th attack. At about 7pm, six insurgents started randomly shooting at the people. The vigilante youths blew a traditional horn to alarm them, and many escaped without being killed.
Finally, The insurgents summoned all extremists from various locations and vowed with Allah to angrily eradicate the Christians from village. According to 6 victims who spoke to our correspondent, they revealed over 100 insurgents surrounded and attacked them on September 30, 2013 around 9pm. This was the 11th and final attack, this time forcing the villagers to flee and evacuate the area to save themselves.
They described the attack as pure evil and that Christians were horribly burned alive. They began shooting with intentions of killing all males in the village. They first killed Shuwa Yakubu (28) and bludgeoned his mother’s head to death, despite desperate pleas to stop. They also murdered Simon Ibrahim (25), Simon Kigho (60), and Markus Ngamtuka (70). They then captured Bitrus (24) and Yahaya Bitrus (26). The two were tied up and mercilessly thrown into the fire of their burning homes. Afterwards, they ransacked the entire village and gathered all valuables in a field near the church. Afterwards, they torched most of the Christian homes. Over 700 houses were looted, burnt and destroyed that day.
Through all the attacks, the Christians still remained faithful and kept trust in the Lord.
Scattered as Refugees, but joyously celebrate Christmas
In interviews with the displaced people of Gavva-West, our reporter found the majority slept in the open bush and went without food for days at a time. Many of the injured have died due to lack of treatment. Their children die of malnutrition and the women were scattered throughout different refugees camps. There have been serious outbreaks of illness and disease that have afflicted at least one hundred of them. It’s tragic they record casualties almost daily.
Others have fled to Madagali in Adamawa State. Some crossed over to Cameroon Republic to treat their wounded bodies, because the Hospital and medical facilities had been bombed by the insurgents. Many have lost their limbs, yet they celebrated Christmas as if nothing had happened to them. Witnessed by our correspondent who spent Christmas with them, they were dancing, singing and praising God.
Among the disturbing situations was the total absence of privacy and social amenities. With all these suffering, the government of Borno State in Nigeria would not take care of the displaced people. Why? They are Christians. The worse aspect is the claims of government officials denying the existence of the refugees camps within and outside the country. We wonder, what has happened to humanity?
With visible gash marks still on his head, it was interesting listening to Rev. Yakubu Dzavi preach to the displaced Christians on Christmas. He spoke about the salvation of mankind through Christ. He told them about Christ being born in manger to signify freedom from total destruction of the world. And he preached as if all the atrocities that had been inflicted on the them meant nothing to the faithful believer whose target is heaven.
To view gallery of Christmas photos taken by VOP Foreign Correspondent at the camp Click Here