Ayuba was only 20 when his father was murdered by Islamic extremists in a vicious attack on his village. Here’s his extraordinary story, from seeking vengeance to choosing to forgive.
Ayuaba lives in the north east of Nigeria, a region where violent attacks by Islamic militant groups are increasing. But nothing could truly prepare him for the day it became a reality.
“Around 6pm, word spread that Boko Haram (a violent, militant Islamic militia) were approaching our village,” he remembers. “My dad told me to remain at home.” It wasn’t long before the situation escalated. “By 10pm, people had started running for their lives, because Boko Haram had arrived in our community.”
With Boko Haram torching buildings nearby, Ayuba knew he couldn’t wait anymore. He and his younger brothers and sisters fled the village, hiding some distance away overnight. “I started crying, but someone with us cheered me up and asked me to pray rather than cry. I did, and I told others to stop crying – and to pray, instead. When we finished praying, we slept there by the riverbank until morning.”
Ayuba’s father had initially been hiding at his sister-in-law’s house, where he was the only Christian. When Boko Haram burst into the house, they singled him out. It’s not only Christians who are affected by attacks in the region – but, in this attack, they were targeted. Ayuba tells the story based on what he heard later from his relatives.
The militants demanded that Ayuba’s father read a passage from the Qu’ran, as a test to see if he was a Muslim. But he didn’t try to hide his faith in Jesus. When they asked him if he was a Muslim or a Christian, he replied ‘Christian’. That reply was all the militants needed to hear to kill him.
In the morning, not yet knowing what had happened, Ayuba and the others made their way back to the village. “Everywhere was silent,” remembers Ayuba. “When we approached our house, I could see three bodies on the ground. I recognised my father by his clothing. I dropped to my knees by his side and prayed.”
Even in that moment of grief, Ayuba was able to give thanks to God. He said, “God, I am grateful – You have given and You have taken. May my father rest together with You.” His words echo Job’s in Job 1:21: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Nine Christians were killed in the attack.
Ayuba vowed to take revenge. He even started carrying a knife. A man in the village had helped Boko Haram identify their targets, and Ayuba was determined to kill him. “It was all I could think about,” he says.
But then he heard that the Islamic militants were planning to return. He says: “A few weeks after the attack, Boko Haram sent a list to our village – a list of people they are coming to kill. And my name was on it.”
Ayuba was reluctant to leave, but was eventually persuaded to move his siblings to another village. From there, a local pastor was able to arrange for them to move further south, about eight hours’ drive away.
It was here that Ayuba was able to get trauma care at a centre run by Open Doors partners. Our partners have been supporting persecuted believers in sub-Saharan Africa for many years, and so their networks are expertly equipped and experienced to support people like Ayuba.
Ayuba found the trauma care transformative. When asked about the biggest lesson he learned at the trauma care centre, he says, “Forgiveness.” Before the counselling, he was determined to murder the man who’d betrayed his father – but, at the trauma centre, he handed over the knife he’d been carrying. “Before coming here, I had decided never to forgive, and to avenge my father’s death,” Ayuba says, “I have no problem with this man now. If we meet, we would greet each other.
“I decided to let go of my anger and have peace. God brought me here to heal me.”
“I thought to myself, what would I gain going around with a knife seeking for revenge, and my mind is never at peace? So I decided to let go of my anger and have peace. God brought me here to heal me. Honestly, if I had not come, I don’t know how I would have ended up.”
Boko Haram wanted to destroy Ayuba’s faith – but, as Joseph says in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” The opposite of Boko Haram’s plans happened: Ayuba’s faith was strengthened by the trauma care.
1. Order our new 2023 World Watch List interactive prayer map…
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