Remarkable acts of heroism occurred during the days of tribal genocide in Northern Nigeria in 1966.
Only a few of them are recorded in our new film, “The Disturbances.” Many more are recounted in the accompanying book by the same title.
Not only did missionaries save lives, but Nigerian leaders did as well.
One such account occurred in Kaduna.
E. O. Akingbala, pastor of First Baptist Church, Kaduna, a Yoruba congregation, disguised Igbos and drove them to safety, according to Baptist missionary Dewey Merritt.
Akingbala’s son, John Olusola Akingbala, shared with us in an email what he remembered about those days and his parents’ heroic actions.
A week before the attacks began, “there was fear and unrest in the Hausas in Kaduna promising revenge on the Igbos and asking for the country to be divided (‘araba’),” wrote Akingbala, who had been born in 1945 in Jos and is now a professor at Bowen University in Iwo, Nigeria.
The following Friday, he had no more stepped off the front porch of his father’s home than he encountered “a crowd wielding axes, cudgels and dangerous weapons.”
A few minutes later on the bus, “we ran into several wild mobs and corpses littering the road, slaughtered in unimaginable manners. We meandered through streets trying to avoid both mobs and corpses but several times this was impossible and we had to make U-turns to reach passable areas.”
The mob even stopped the bus to ask whether any of the passengers were Igbos.
When he finally arrived at his office, he called his parents about the safety of two Igbo women who lived with them. One was a teacher, Caroline; the other was a bank clerk, Miss Eke.
On the first pass down their street, the mob had ignored the Akingbala house. However, the mob returned, asking for the Igbo residents.
His parents said they were not there and invited the mob to look into the house. The mob thought the pastor’s house was hallowed. They feared to enter and backed away.
After a sleepless night, “Dad started calling for help. The missionaries could not help because they were under surveillance too and their government had cautioned that they should be on standby. He called some military men from the congregation, but no one dared intervene due to the tension within the military hierarchy,” wrote Akingbala.
“So, together with mom, they decided to dress up the girls in Yoruba attire, moved the car to the backyard and the two girls had to climb into the back seat, and they were driven to the airport,” he continued. “They were stopped at several checkpoints on their way, but were allowed to pass, because he was a well-known pastor and an old one at that; really it was because the Lord was with them.”
At the airport, with hundreds of Igbos waiting to be evacuated, the possibility of their two houseguests getting on board appeared unlikely.
That was when Mrs. Akingbala took charge. She demanded that the two girls be able to get on a flight. She got her way. The girls got safely to the Eastern Region.
John Olusola Akingbala shared that years later Caroline returned to teach in Kaduna. As for Miss Eke, they never heard from her again.
His father, a prominent Nigerian Baptist leader, is still living – and in his 90s.
What Nigerian pastors and missionaries did to save lives during a time of tribal genocide, in which an estimated 30,000 Igbos and Easterners were brutally killed, is a true story that every Christian ought to know.
And we are telling it for the first time after 50 years with a book and a film.
Both are now available to pre-order.
Both recount from archival correspondence, minutes, shorthand notes, photographs and dozens of on-camera interviews what missionaries and missionary children with the Assemblies of God, Christian Reformed Church, Church of the Brethren, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Southern Baptist Convention, Sudan Interior Mission and Sudan United Mission, and Nigerians did.
Based on archival material, the film includes reports from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Catholic Church.
From our perspective, the book and film are the best resources available to facilitate a substantive and dynamic discussion about real mission work – and the spread of genocide around the globe.
We are taking two primary initiatives to introduce these resources.
First, we have scheduled a number of premiere screenings, including events at Christ Church Nashville, Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio and Hales Corners Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Samford and Auburn universities have scheduled screenings. Other screenings are being planned.
If your college, university, seminary, church or organization wishes to host a screening, click here for more information.
Second, we plan to submit the film to film festivals in California, Florida, Montana and Ohio. We’re even submitting the film in film festivals in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Simply put: This is an incredible story about ruin and redemption, blood and boldness, denial and dedication, guilt and goodness. “The Disturbances” is both horrifying and inspiring.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.