Stories

TERRORISM

Fleeing Boko Haram and Separated From Her Family,
One Woman Makes It to Safety

Lolade* and her family are some of Boko Haram’s more fortunate victims. In the fall of 2014, Lolade, her husband and two children fled their village in Northeastern Nigeria and hid in mountain caves to escape the terrorist group’s onslaught. When they thought they could flee to Cameroon, they attempted to get to safety; but the family was separated along the route, and Boko Haram militants captured her and her children.

The fighters took them back to a high-walled compound near their village. It contained multiple homes with each holding about 20 women and children. They were told their husbands had been killed. When the militants successfully raided villages for food, they fed the women and children; and when there was no food, everyone fasted. The prisoners were locked up from 5pm until about 10am, when they would be released to collect firewood, leaves and water. While in the camp, many women gave birth to babies, and the Boko Haram militants assigned the babies Muslim names. However, Lolade said they were not forced to convert. She and her children lived like this for two months.

One night, Lolade and the other women in her house sensed an opportunity to escape. With one child on her shoulders and one on her back, Lolade managed to climb over the compound wall with 15 others and ran as fast as their legs could go. They went back to the mountain from which they fled, but Lolade’s husband was not there. They fled for Cameroon again, and this time they made it. There, Lolade was reunited with her husband. After a couple more moves, they landed in a safe IDP camp. When asked what she might wish to communicate to people in the U.S. about her ordeal, Lolade replied without hesitation, “I pray that God should not allow this kind of situation to come into the West.”

*Name changed to protect identity


DISCRIMINATION

Religious Restrictions Hinder Education, Advancement

It is impossible to understand Jacob’s story without understanding the underlying discrimination in northern Nigeria. The southern half of Nigeria is much more prosperous than the North because of oil and banking wealth based in Lagos. It is also mostly Christian. The North is predominantly Muslim and has fewer economic and educational opportunities. There is a general sense in northern Nigeria that it is suffering regional discrimination at the federal level. Some Muslim elites in the North institute discriminatory laws against Christians, seemingly in order to “even the playing field.” For example, some Christians face higher fees to enter school or buy goods. Some are evicted from their homes because of their faith, or have their churches destroyed.

Jacob* is a 19-year-old who used to live in the northern state of Borno. Boko Haram attacked his village in 2014, and his family – like so many others – fled to Cameroon. But with little opportunity there, he left his family and traveled back to Abuja to find work. He has lived in a government-run camp for 16 months that contains Christians and Muslims who have fled violence, primarily from Yobe and Adamawe states. All of the camp’s 1,450 residents wish they could return home.

Jacob earned good grades in school and wants to become a pharmacist, but he is not allowed to take the entrance exam because he is a Christian. Instead, he is working as a tailor earning small wages. He has no recourse; there is no governing body to which he can appeal. He simply waits and sews hoping for change. It is this very type of discrimination that halts progress both economically and relationally between religious groups in Nigeria.

When asked what he would say to Boko Haram if he could stand face-to-face with the group, he replied, “Nothing, because I am scared.”

*Name changed to protect identity


 

Life at the Stefanos IDP Camp in Jos, Nigeria

Stefanos IDP Camp Pic

My name is Linus. My wife Dinatur and I live with six of our children at Stefanos IDP Camp in Jos. Our home was in Gwoza LGA of Borno State, where we lived until 2014, when the Boko Haram ravaged our village and killed most of our family and neighbors. My family and I escaped to Cameroon, and then later we moved to Mubi in Adamawa State, where I thought we would be safe. Not long after in Mubi, the Boko Haram attacked again, and we were able to escape to Jos.

I decided to relocate my wife and five of my children to the Stefanos Foundation IDP Camp in November 2014. I left my eldest three children to stay with relatives in Maiduguri.

We have been in the Camp for almost two years now and want to return home, but our village is still very unsafe. We all hope that our government will be able to secure the area. Our area of Gwoza is divided into two broad parts, one occupied by Boko Haram and the other captured by the Military.

I used to be a businessman, selling consumer items, while I worked a farm. I have been educated in account­ing, but I never got employment because of the Boko Haram crippling all activities in Gwoza. At the camp, I have little I can do to support my family, as there are no vacant farmlands in Jos where I can farm. I stay busy helping with the administration of the camp.

My wife, Dinatur, is a seamstress but does not have the tools she needs to do this type of work. Our family relies on food shared with us in the camp. Most of the food is donated to us by churches, individuals and organizations.

Initially, movement was restricted but now, we are allowed to go outside the Camp to find work during the day. Sometimes, people from town also come to request for domestic assistants from the camp.

Due to the large number of people in the Camp, we have formed our own Church where the men, women and youth have our different fellowships and meet for Bible study. We also have general Sunday service together.

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