Helping mothers overcome trauma in Nigeria

We praise and thank God that Asia Bibi is finally free. She has been allowed to leave Pakistan and has joined her family here in Canada.

Charity was abducted by Boko Haram when they attacked her village. Her husband managed to run away but Charity was held captive by Boko Haram for three years. As an ‘infidel’, Charity was forcibly married. She fell pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl, called Rahila. After being freed by the military and returning home, her husband beat her and rejected baby Rahila. Charity now lives in an Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP) camp.

Charity continues to face discrimination in the camp, “People in the camp despise me,” she said. “They keep mocking me saying, why didn’t I run together with my husband, why did I allow my husband to run away? And now, see, I have come back with a child that is not of my husband, and they keep making fun of me.”

Charity is dependent on aid while she is displaced. “Life is really difficult because there is no water to drink and even no food to eat. We struggle to get food,” Charity said. “Even clothes to wear, I don’t have them.”

Charity attended a trauma healing workshop run by Open Doors where she drew her self-portrait and studied the Bible with other women. She also learnt techniques to help her deal with and process the trauma she experienced: “I want to say thank you to everybody who has been praying for me and for those who have sent support to help us. Thank you.

“There’s a change in my husband. He has started liking my daughter and has even carried her.”

Rebecca, an Open Doors partner, works with widows and orphans in IDP camps, some of whom have been held captive by Boko Haram. She explained: “Everywhere people are displaced, they have left their villages. They are now living in very congested areas. Eight or ten people living in one room. This is what displaced people are suffering in the camps.

“In times of crisis, people take care of themselves first. Life becomes so difficult that it’s very hard to help others. It is almost impossible for widows to feed themselves and their children.

“Nobody is assisting them. They don’t have husbands. They have never been to school, they are not educated, they cannot read or write so there is nothing they can do.”

Open Doors is supporting Rebecca as she provides practical aid, prayer and counselling to women in the IDP camps: “We provide food, like maize, sometimes we give them clothes and detergent. We try to help them fiscally but spiritually we pray for them and sometimes we council them.”

Rebecca supports women who have escaped Boko Haram captivity: “When they came out with their babies it is not an easy thing. Even for me to help them. They came out with dirty clothes, no food, no anything, no assistance. We invited them to where I work in the church. First of all, we pray with them. We show them love and that we are not going to hurt them. We become close with them.”

There is stigma associated with being abducted by Boko Haram and Charity’s situation is all too normal. Rebecca works with the wider community to break the stigma of being abducted: “We are also teaching people how to love them. A person should not hate them.”

According to research by Open Doors, Christian women are doubly vulnerable to persecution, targeted for both their faith and gender. We are ensuring that women are treated with care and dignity, seen when isolated, empowered to read, enabled to earn to provide and confident that God sees and loves them no matter what they have suffered.

This Mother’s Day we are asking everyone to pray for and support persecuted women who are doubly vulnerable to help restore their hope, dignity and identity.

Nigeria is number 12 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has created a humanitarian disaster. It is estimated that Boko Haram have killed over 20,000 people and displaced about 2.6 million others. Women in particular are struggling; many have been abducted or widowed by Boko Haram, so they have no income and no home. Open Doors is providing them with aid and counselling and by showing mothers that God sees and loves them no matter what they have suffered.