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A SHORT HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN BORNO

Commemorating 150 years of Replanting Christianity in Nigeria in 1992
Written by Dr & Mrs. I. U. Ibeme

Website: http://www.scribd.com/ifeogo ; e-mail: ifeogo@yahoo.com
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The Old Borno State was the largest state in Nigeria covering about 116,589
square kilometers in area. The larger part of the region is made up of arid and
sandy plains. This is the same area covered by the Anglican Diocese of Maiduguri.

Islam became the predominant religion earlier in Borno because one of the
early kings of Kanem-Borno Empire, Mai Hume Jilme adopted Islam about the
year 1090.

The first recorded case of Christian influence in Borno was as a result of the
scattering of the last Christian Kingdom in Nubia which is now Sudan. Reports of
the influence of these remnant Christians from Nubia soon reached Rome through
freed slaves and occasional travelers. Some Roman Catholic missionaries based in
Tripoli soon began to develop strategies for missions for the region of Lake Chad
and Borno, but there was no successful visit to Borno despite trans-Saharan
attempts in 1703 and 1710. However, according to the Catholic historians, there
was an Italian Franciscan based at the monastery in Tripoli who heard that a
Catholic family had settled in Borno, and decided to visit them; His name was
Philip da Segni. He travelled, despite the heat of the Sahara desert, from Tripoli
via Murzuk and Bilma to Kukawa. He arrived in 1850 and was warmly received by
the wise Sheikh of Borno, Shehu Umar. Amazingly, he made no attempt at
establishing any mission or planting a church.

After Philip da Segni’s trip, the missionary route diverted to the Coast as River
Niger had been explored. Missionary trips were done from the south rather than
crossing the dessert. The earliest but abortive attempt was made by Rev. Allukur

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Sharpe, a freed Kanuri slave who became a Methodist minister. His hope to return
to his people of Borno was dashed when he died at Egga mission station on the
Niger in 1884.

THE CBM/EYN:
Stover Kulp was born in 1894 in Pennsylvania, USA. He was minster with
the church of the Brethren Mission which was part of the Anabaptist movement.
Kulp arrived Lagos in 1922 (December), accompanied by his colleague Rev. Albert
Helser. His vision was to establish a mission anywhere North- East of the country.
Another vision was to set up a line of Christian missions in the Savannah region of
Nigeria where Islam had already taken some root.

Kulp started with the Bura people of the Biu Plateau in Borno. He arrived at
Biu on 12th February 1923. The Biu people however were repulsive to the
missionaries because of the bitterness against the colonial government who
placed them under Muslim Emirs. Kulp opted for Garkida, a small village
separated by the River Hawul from the rest of the Biu community. There, the first
Christian mission station in Bornu province was dedicated on 17 th March 1923. A
small school and medical clinic were opened in Garkida in 1924 with Dr. Homer
Burke, a missionary doctor, supervising.

It was only in 1930 that another site for a new mission station was chosen at
Marama on Biu Plateau. The building was to be done the same year. That was
when the real evangelization of the Buras began. Kulp and his group established
other mission stations among the Marghi in 1927, where Muslim mason by the
name Mr. Risku had been converted to Christianity in 1926. He worked hard to
translate the prayers and Bible stories into Marghi and opened the first mission
school in Lassa where a mission hospital was later built. Other stations were:
Chibok in 1941, Gulak in 1948 and Uba in 1955. The mission at Marama was
opened in 1931.

Mission stations were also opened in Wandali in 1930 and Shafa in 1950.
Many new primary schools were opened and this led to the opening of Waka

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Teachers’ College near Biu in 1952. It is this Church of the Brethren Mission (C. B.
M.), that later came to be known as Ekklesiya Yanuwar a Nijeriya (E.Y.N).

THE SIM/ECWA:
A young Canadian named Rowland Bingham had the inspiration to found
the Sudan Interior Mission (S. I. M.) He set out in 1893 and arrived at Lagos. The
first station of the S. I. M. was opened in Kukar Gadu, near the border with Bauchi
province in 1935. Between 1935 and 1971, the S. I. M. in Borno and Bauchi were
merged and later formed one district. The present day E.C.W.A (Evangelical
Churches of West Africa) was established from the former S. I. M. Churches in
May 1954. They founded stations in Potiskum, Damaturu, Biu, Gashua, Kukawa
(the old Kanuri capital) with headquarters in Maiduguri.

THE SUM/COCIN:
The mission of the Sudan United Mission (S. U. M.) started first as a medical
outreach. Permission was granted late in 1936 for S. U. M. to open a small leper
colony in Molai, a small village near Maiduguri. The S. U. M. was founded by Dr
Charles Kumm a young German born in 1874, The S. U. M. used this humanitarian
ground (of health services) as a base for evangelism since they were not allowed
to preach openly in Kanuri villages. They came to Molai in 1937. Dr. Priestman
was of immense help in establishing the leper colony which was officially opened
in April 1938 by the Shehu of Borno Umar Sanda Ikarimi.

Because of the restrictions, the S.U.M. established a bookshop in Maiduguri in
1945 where people could at least go and read about the gospel. Fellowship of
Christian Students (F. C. S) was established by the staff of S. U. M. schools in
Gindiri in 1957 and from there, it spread quickly to the old Northern region. The
S. U. M. also opened mission bookshops in Bama in 1949. Similarly, bookshops
were also opened in Nguru and Geidam in 1950. Other bookshops were opened
in Biu and Gwoza.

A dispensary was opened in Bama by Dr Lawrence Chandler in 1950. He and
his wife were associated with the formation of a Christian church in Gwoza as well.

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Also Dr Carling of S.U.M. master-minded and executed the Lake Chad Project
which established dispensaries on the malaria infested Islands of Lake Chad. This
was in 1965. Dispensaries were also opened in Mallam Fatori (1964) and
Allagarno near Baga (1966).

The S.U.M. succeeded in rallying round proselytes among the indigenes for
missionary work. Though the nucleus of the first COCIN Church in Maiduguri
began in 1944, Borno became a district of COCIN as a full region in 1966. This
present Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) evolved from the S.U.M.

OTHER CHURCHES FROM THE SOUTH:
In 1946 the first inter-denominational Christian church in Maiduguri which
started in 1936 by southerners assumed an almost exclusively Anglican character.
The Baptists were no longer able to use the church venue at will, so they
withdrew from the church and began to conduct their own services in the house
of one Mr. I. A. Omotosho. This was in April 1949. This accounts for the origin of
the first Baptist Church in Maiduguri. It was mainly started by Yoruba traders who
sought their means of living in the North. Potiskum however is the oldest Baptist
community in Borno where the first Baptist Church was built as early as 1930 or
1928 as some would contend.

Back to the Catholic Church, Apart from the unsuccessful attempts made by
the earlier mentioned Franciscan Monks, the first Catholics to settle in Maiduguri
were migrant traders and artisans from the southern provinces. It was in 1945
that the Catholic community in Maiduguri withdrew from the interdenominational
Christian services and began to conduct their own services. Similar services had
come up in Potiskum by 1949 and in Nguru by 1964.

Maiduguri has also seen other indigenous churches since then. Christ
Apostolic Church since 1968, the Deeper life Bible Church, the National Evangelical
Mission and other Pentecostal Churches, Ministries and Fellowships since the
1980s.

THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN BORNO:

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Although there had been attempts to plant Christianity along the coastlines of
Nigeria by some Catholic monks in the 16 th century, these remained unsuccessful.
It was not until 1842 (150yrs ago as at 1992) when the Methodist Mission led by
Thomas Freeman on one hand, and the Anglican Mission (Church Missionary
Society – CMS) led by Henry Townsend on the other came and effectively
established Christian missions and planted the Christian church in Nigeria. By
December 1842, both had started the work of their lifetime which was to earn
their places in the history of our land. The church they planted later grew to cover
the whole of southern Nigeria and began to spread northwards.

The first Anglican Church in Maiduguri evolved from the inter-denominational
group organized by southern Christians. After the Baptists and Roman Catholics
started their separate services in 1946, the Anglicans teamed up in 1947 to build
the first completed church building in Maiduguri. The church which was called
Holy Trinity Anglican Church was located in the present site of the Borno State
Secretariat Complex, where its foundation stone was laid on 26 th July 1947 by
Bishop Sherwood Jones. By 1954, the Igbo Christian traders, artisans and workers
had built St. John’s Anglican Church on its present site. These churches were later
to be registered under the then Diocese of Northern Nigeria. Other Anglican
Churches came up later at Potiskum and Nguru meeting the spiritual needs of
mainly southern Christian traders and workers.

It is worthy to note that Anglican missionaries worked hand-in-hand with the
S. U. M. to establish the Maiduguri Missionary Bookshop (now Albishir Bookshop)
in 1945. In fact the first man to take charge of the Bookshop was an Anglican
Missionary by the name Mr. R. Smith.

Other English Reformed churches which had been brought up to Maiduguri
by Southerners include the Wesley Methodist Church and the Presbyterian
Church, these came to be established in the late 1970s.

The Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) in February, 1990 created the
Missionary Diocese of Maiduguri out of the old Kano Diocese. This covers the
area of the old Borno State now Borno and Yobe states of Nigeria. Rt. Rev. E.K.
Mani, a former military chaplain who hails from Zuru in then Sokoto state was

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consecrated the first Anglican Bishop of Maiduguri. Through his dynamic
leadership, the Anglican Church in Borno and Yobe States has grown in size and
strength. Many new congregations have been founded recently. Today a
Bishopscourt is already under construction in Maiduguri and has reached an
advanced stage. All of us here are witnesses of the unveiling of the plaque of its
foundation stone this 18th day of July 1992 in the year of our Lord.

To our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died in our stead to
satisfy God’s Justice, offering once and for all a sufficient oblation and sacrifice as
a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, to Him be glory with the Father and
the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Dr. (Ordinand) I. U. IBEME
(3rd Jubilee Secretary, 1992)
FOR: THE PLANNING COMMITTEE.

Last revised: September 10, 2008
Copyright © PriscAquila Publishing, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
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