A Nigerian pastor and his wife were gunned down Monday while they were working on their family farm in the Taraba State of the country. The couple leaves behind eight children ages 1 to 19. Local authorities have yet to identify the gunmen.
Armed gunmen approached Pastor Emmanuel Saba Bileya of Christian Reformed Church and his wife Juliana while they were working on their farm. They opened fire on the couple, killing them immediately. Reports say Juliana was pregnant.
“It was an attack on the pastor and his wife on their farm. While they were working on the farm, suddenly armed men came and opened fire on them, leading to the death of the pastor and his wife,” the Hausa Christians Foundation said on Facebook.
Taraba Gov. Darius Ishaku spoke out against the killing, calling the incident wicked and inhuman. Additionally, he sent his sympathies to the surviving members of the couple’s family.
“Killings of this nature have happened too often recently in Southern Taraba communities. This is unhelpful to the ongoing efforts of the government to achieve lasting peace among communities in the area,” Ishaku said.
Rev. Bileya received a Master of Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary in Michigan in 2014. After that, he enrolled at the Robert E. Webber Institute of Worship Studies. As he pursued his doctoral degree, he served at Veenstra Theological Seminary in Donga. In fact, he was in the last stages of the doctoral program, taking a thesis course in 2019.
“It is with a broken heart that IWS announces the deaths of D.W.S. student Emmanuel Bileya, his wife Juliana, and their child in utero, whose name is known only to God,” the institution said in a statement. “Their martyrdom was the result of an ongoing ethnic war in their home country of Nigeria.”
Due to escalating tribal conflicts in the area, Bileya sent his children to the headquarters town of his church. He and his wife stayed back.
“[Biyela] mentioned that he sent his children to the headquarters town of his church, but that he and his wife had stayed back,” said a fellow IWS student who had spoken with him five days before he was killed.
In other words, this decision saved his children’s lives. Biyela truly was “God with us.”
“Born on Christmas Day of 1968, his family gave him the name Emmanuel, ‘God with us,’” the IWS statement reads. “For all in the IWS community who were blessed to meet Emmanuel… it can truthfully be said that ‘God with us’ was an apt name for him.”