WARNING: Content may distress some readers
Recently Isaac*, an Open Doors worker in Nigeria, travelled to meet some of the women freed from Boko Haram. Taking with him a local pastor from the area, Isaac was initially denied access to the camp as security was on high alert. Returning on the second day however, the Lord used a prominent government official to gain access, enabling Isaac and the pastor to step into the world of the escapees.
All of the women had difficulty expressing the intensity of their ordeal. One woman, who did not want us to publish her name, told Isaac, “I really don’t want to recall the gory incidents I witnessed in my seven months with the insurgents.”
“A LIVING HELL…”
Martina Paul, a mother of five, shared her story with Isaac, “It was like living in hell for all of us believers. It is difficult to describe what it is like to be left in the hands of the enemies of Christ.”
“The insurgents came to our village at night. I was in the room with my husband and the kids. We said our prayers, went to bed, and woke up to the sound of explosions and gunshots all over the village. We heard cries of other people in the village, shouting the name of Jesus. The insurgents broke down our doors and entered. We were also shouting, calling on the Name of Jesus. They told us to stop calling on Jesus, but we persisted.”
“My husband embraced me and the kids, all the while calling on the name of Jesus. The attackers drew him away and shot him in front of us and then set the house on fire and went away with us to the forest. I was pregnant and pleaded with them to spare us, but they took me and the children captive.”
Martina delivered the baby after five months in the camp. But the insurgents killed her child because she had thanked God in the name of Jesus for the child’s birth.
TOLD TO CONVERT OR DIE
Another women, Elizabeth, spoke to Isaac and recounted what happened from when she had first arrived in the camp. On the first day, the women were made to eat Debino (dates). This is used as part of the initiation into the sect and a sign of ownership over those eating them. They were then told to convert to Islam and given new Muslim names for easy identification. Those who refused to cooperate with this were killed.
“When we arrived in the camp, some of the girls who were captured with us refused to be Islamised. They stood firm in Christ. I saw them being stoned to death as they called on Jesus. I was terrified and agreed to become a Muslim to spare my life,” the 20-year-old Elizabeth told Isaac.
GIVEN AS WIVES
Isaac was told the abducted women were given as wives to fighting members of Boko Haram. Those who protested these forceful marriages were punished publically as a lesson to others. Punishment could be 80 strokes in public, or death, either by shooting or slitting of the throat. Unfortunately this was a common occurrence with rape and death threats a daily part of life.
Abducted victims were also trained in basic warfare either by Arab militants or captured military officers. This involved being shown how to kill, how to defend oneself, and how to be confident in the face of danger. Leaders also went around the different camps looking for men and girls willing to perform suicide bombings.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
The military rescue operation did not come a day too soon. These women thank God for sparing their lives. In the midst of the harrowing tales of suffering and trauma, they testify that the Lord has heard our prayers for them —not only in the rescue, but in His sustaining grace to them as they faced each day’s brutality in the camp.
25 year old Waliya Samiyu shared with Isaac, “God never disowns his people. He never let me down. My friends lost their lives in my presence. I went through hardship. I was raped. I saw hell. But I clung to God who knows me. I cried to Him day and night. At night, when everyone was dealing with their trauma, I gazed at the stars in heaven and constantly reminded God of His promises in times like these. He kept his promises. I survived it. Now I am free. To God be the glory.”
At the military barracks in Yola, where Isaac visited, the women are still kept under heavy security for their continued protection. There is no information as to how long they will stay there and a long term plan for these women to return into normal society is also yet to be formulated.
This raises concerns for the future of children like 10 year old Alisa. Alisa spoke with Isaac and told him, “I don’t know what to do. I have no one to help me. But I am sure that if God allowed my parents to be killed, He will take care of me. I look up to Him. The way He rescued me shows that He has something for me in this life.”
Isaac told us, “The rescued believers were encouraged by our presence at a time when they felt the world had abandoned them. Hearing that the larger body of Christ has been praying for them and has been concerned for them, restored a measure of confidence, hope, and acceptance.”
*Name has been changed for security purposes
- Praise God for the women who have been set free, that they have survived this ordeal and He has brought them through it.
- Pray for the women still imprisoned by Boko Haram as they face the same ongoing ordeal.
- Pray for the soldiers of Boko Haram, that God would open their eyes and they would lay aside their weapons seeking His forgiveness.
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