‘His father is Boko Haram, but he is still my child’

Light of truth

“The evening of August 21, 2014 I was relaxing with my two children–Zachariah (5) and Jonathan (18 months), in front of our house in Baga, Borno State. I was pregnant at the time. We suddenly heard gunshots and explosions.

“We all knew immediately that it was Boko Haram, and ran in different directions. They killed people, burned houses and churches. In no time, they surrounded us and kept us hostage for three weeks.

“We were later moved to Chad and eventually, Sambisa, back in Nigeria. They picked wives from among us. Those who refused marriage were killed and their children enslaved.

“I refused to convert to Islam but they still named me Maryam. When I refused, marriage, they picked up Jonathan and flung him into a river. He soon drowned, screaming and crying, ‘mama.’ I helplessly, watched him die.

“I was told I would be married to someone who could impregnate me to replace my dead son. If I didn’t want that, then I would work as a sex slave or they would kill my remaining child. I became a sex slave.

“Daily, for almost two years, I was with more than one man. I was scared of being infected. Many times, I felt like ripping my skin off whenever they called on me. I was flogged, beaten, imprisoned with no food or water.

“I had a miscarriage in the process but got pregnant afterwards and gave birth to a son they named Ibrahim. It was very difficult to love this child. His father is Boko Haram, but he is still my son.

“I worried a lot about my husband. I wondered how I would face him if we eventually reunited. I wondered how I would cope with this current situation which had become a part of life’s story.

“I hadn’t seen or heard any news about him as we had gone in separate directions during the attack.

“One fateful day, soldiers attacked the camp and many of us escaped during the chaos. Another group of soldiers brought us to Maiduguri. As we journeyed, I felt like flinging the baby out of the truck. But it seemed like the soldiers anticipated my thoughts and began counselling me against it.

“While I was struggling with this reality of having a Boko Haram baby, I was also worried about how my husband would accept that I was a sex slave while in captivity and had also come back with a child fathered by one of the insurgents. “They asked me if I had anyone in Maiduguri and I told them I had the Catholic Church. That’s how they brought me to St Patrick’s Cathedral.

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