You might have seen reports on the news this week that some of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014 have been forced to join the terrorist group. The claims were made by a witness in a BBC Panorama documentary. Shockingly, they say that some of the girls are now being used to terrorise other captives, and are even carrying out executions themselves.
The reports come from three women who claim they were held in the same camps as some of the Chibok girls. An escapee called Miriam described meeting some of the Chibok girls whilst in captivity. She said they were housed separately from the other captives, that the girls had been ‘brainwashed’ and that she had witnessed some of them kill several men in her village.
“They were Christian men. They [the Boko Haram fighters] forced the Christians to lie down. Then the girls cut their throats.”
The testimony cannot be verified but Amnesty International says other girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been forced to fight.
Open Doors workers in Nigeria have heard similar claims. We, too, have been unable to confirm them independently, but such forced participation would be in line with Boko Haram practice.
In the programme, a girl using the pseudonym Faith described how Boko Haram fighters tried to force her to convert from Christianity to their version of Islam.
“Every day at dawn they would come and throw water over us and order us to wake up and start praying.” She described how she refused to take part in the execution of a captured soldier.
Miriam is pregnant with the child of a member of Boko Haram. Beatings, torture, rape, forced marriages and pregnancies were common in Boko Haram camps, according to Dr Fatima Akilu, the woman in charge of Nigeria’s counter-violence and extremism programme. She is currently looking after around 300 of the recently rescued women and children. Dr Akilu said: “Recovery is going to be slow, it’s going to be long.”
Open Doors is providing an extensive trauma counselling programme to help people like Miriam and Faith. We are training local Christians in trauma counselling, using a mixture of biblical teaching and counselling techniques.
We are also providing specialised training for pastors. Most of these pastors have little or no training in counselling, so Open Doors staff are helping them with basic counselling techniques, focused on one-on-one counselling. Many of the pastors are in shock themselves, having seen their congregations brutally and violently attacked, so we are also assisting them to understand their own emotions and behavioural changes.
One Open Doors worker in west Africa said: “The emotional impact on the people of Nigeria is unimaginable… The aftermath of this crisis will offer the church one of her biggest opportunities, but also one of her biggest challenges to be instruments of healing in the hands of the Lord. Open Doors, over many years of involvement in northern Nigeria, has worked to prepare and equip Christians for dynamic ministry in times such as these.
“Pray that the local and international body of Christ will be able to rise to this occasion through practical and emotional help and through prayer for massively traumatised people.”
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