April 2, 2014
Many have been killed or kidnapped by Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group, but six girls who managed to escape their brutality are now living in Christian centers, where they are putting the pieces of their lives back together. The girls—Anna, Hajja and four others—were kidnapped in separate attacks. Hajja was held for three months, while others were held for several days.
On May 15, 2013, Anna boarded a bus in Maiduguri, Borno state, along with five other passengers. When they reached their destination, they were attacked by Boko Haram as they got off the bus. Anna watched as the militants killed the other five passengers, all men. The lone survivor, she was taken to the Boko Haram camp as their hostage. While in captivity, she saw more than 50 others killed by the militants. Those brought into the camp were quickly identified as either Christian or Muslim by their ID cards. The Christians were immediately executed, and the Muslims who refused to join the Boko Haram were also killed.
On May 26, Anna was told by one of her captors to be ready to convert or face death the next morning. That same day, one of the hostages tried to flee in an unoccupied vehicle. As he started to drive away, others, including Anna, ran to get into the vehicle. Only Anna and another young man made a successful escape, finally walking a distance of more than 160 miles to safety.
Another abductee, Hajja, was held captive for three months after being abducted in July 2013. One of the Boko Haram members planned to marry the young girl, but they still beat her mercilessly, demanding that she convert to Islam and wear a hijab. After finally managing to escape, Hajja was taken in by a Christian center, where her hope is gradually being restored. The home of the girl’s parents was burned by Boko Haram during an attack on their village shortly after the girl’s escape.
Like Anna and Hajja, the other four girls were abused and told that they must convert or face death. All of them were terrorized by Boko Haram as they watched loved ones and others die around them. Three of them, including two young sisters, were forced to marry their captors.
Each of the six girls managed to escape, and because their villages and homes have been destroyed and their families displaced, they are living in Christian centers supported by VOM. They are all reportedly in good physical health and are also very happy to have hope for a future.
(This story first appeared on VOM's primary web site, www.Persecution.com.)