Aisha is 28, married and the mother of three. She comes from Kano, one of the Sharia-governed states in northern Nigeria. Her area is also one of those affected by deadly The Fulani are a large ethnic group in West Africa. A third of all Fulani people are pastoralists, making them the largest nomadic community in the world. More militant violence. She recently told us about how the violence has impacted her and her family–and how God is at work in the midst of devastation. Through your support, in 2018 some 728 believers in Nigeria have received counseling and training, including recipients and pastors who have been trained to identify and help trauma victims. Here is Aisha’s story, in her words, as told to Open Doors.
Editor’s note: The following story contains descriptions of sexual assault and may be difficult for some readers. Please use discretion as you read Aisha’s words.
One night, I was in bed with my husband, and our children were in the other room. We heard a woman in our community crying. The Fulani are a large ethnic group in West Africa. A third of all Fulani people are pastoralists, making them the largest nomadic community in the world. More militant kidnappers had broken in and taken her husband away. We went out to see what was happening.
As we opened the door, the attackers barged into our home. They forced us back into our room and demanded money. We told them we didn’t have any. They noticed the Bible in the room and assumed my husband was a pastor.
“Because of that, we must take you away,” they told him.
Terror at Home
As they took him outside, they ordered him to show them the homes of rich people in the village. About 10 of the attackers remained with me and the children. They demanded sex, and I pleaded that I did not want to sleep with them. They beat me up. One of them raped me, [and] then a second person raped me. After that, they left, taking with them everything valuable.
I thought they had killed my husband, but a few hours later, he returned home.
“What happened?” he wanted to know. I did not want to tell him, but he insisted: “What did they do to you?”
In between sobs, I told him what they had done to me—I never thought I would sleep with any other man. “Wipe your tears—there’s no problem [between us],” he comforted me.
The next morning, I went to the hospital to get tested [for diseases]. There, they told us they couldn’t run any tests until three weeks had passed. My husband and I were confused, but he told me, “Even if you are infected with an illness, I will never leave you! I will stand by you.” We decided that we wouldn’t even go back to the hospital.
Beauty From Ashes
Afterward, I still had many difficulties. I had no peace in my heart. I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t sleep. Whenever I was alone, I remembered how those two men raped me. I felt so much hatred in my heart toward them. There is one person in my community that looks just like one of the men who raped me. Every time I saw him, I hated him.
Recently, Open Doors invited me to a trauma care program. After that seminar, I began to feel peace of mind. Even when I see the man that looked like one of the rapists, I didnʼt feel that hatred toward him anymore. God taught me to forgive. Right now, when I remember the incident … I donʼt know, but the hatred has gone.
And when I went home, I spoke to my other [spiritual] sisters, who had the same experience, and they, too, received peace of mind. God has promised that one day He will wipe away all our tears, all the pain and worries we have faced. But one thing I know is that God works everything for the good of those who fear Him, so I want everyone who has gone through my situation to know that God is aware of it and that He says Heʼll bring out good from the situation.
‘I saw how God looks at me.’
In September 2018, I attended another program from Open Doors. This time, we were taught some exercises to use to get relief whenever I begin to experience pain in my heart. We painted pictures of ourselves and sewed. I really enjoyed it. I saw the mind of God concerning me—how He looks at me. He is the only One that can bring comfort to us [in the midst of] these things that have happened.
I drew my picture without a smile on my face because I want everybody who sees it to know the pain I experienced and still have, because this evil has not stopped happening in my community. I want people in the world to know it is very painful when you have been raped. It is a wound that takes a gradual process to heal.
And, as I said before, Iʼm not the only one in my community—many other women have been raped. We are weak, as women. We do not have strength to fight back, and the attackers have [a] great advantage over us. We are not [educated] and don’t have the money to reach out and tell the world what is happening. But God has brought you to hear from us and to tell the world these things we are going through in Nigeria.
While I was drawing, I started feeling happy because now the world will know about our pain. God has brought you so that you will help us.
‘I want to show this love to others.’
If I hadn’t attended this program I don’t know how my life would have been. I would still have been in pain because there is nobody around me to strengthen and encourage me. But now that I have received this trauma counseling, I am so happy. I am so overwhelmed with the love and compassion you [Open Doors] showed us. You were not irritated by us. You showed us true and genuine love.
Honestly, I am so happy, and even in the years to come, I will never forget this program. I saw the hand of God in your visit. I thank God because I have seen the love of God. Your coming has shown me the love of Christ, for you have come from your country to bring us this project. And I have learned that even when I go back home, I want to show this love to the people around us.
We came here with heavy hearts, but we leave with joy, and we ask God to bless you richly.
Continue to pray for us. Pray also for me. I really want to go to school. I was in school before. I dropped out because of finances. Iʼm not going to school, and my children are not going to school. If thereʼs one thing I desire in this life, it is to go back to school. I want my children to have an education. Please pray for that.
Open Doors invites you to write letters of encouragement to Aisha. Take a few minutes and let her know that the world is hearing what she and women in northern Nigeria are going through. And that we are listening to their stories.
Please continue to pray for your Nigerian brothers and sisters like Aisha! To help God’s family in Nigeria with emergency and long-term needs, click here.