Help for those orphaned and widowed by Boko Haram in Nigeria
"They took hold of my husband and told him to convert to Islam. When he refused, he was slaughtered in front of my eyes."
By Maria Lozano
THE SPECTER of Boko
Haram may have fallen from the headlines, but a painful echo of its reign of
terror in northeastern Nigeria endures. The group mainly killed men, leaving
behind countless widows and orphans in dire straits.
There are 5,000 women
who lost their husbands and 15,000 children who lost their fathers who are
cared for by the Diocese of Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was first founded and
which was hardest hit by its merciless rampages. A delegation of international
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently travelled to
Maiduguri and spoke with some of the women.
“Boko Haram fighters
came to my home early in the morning,” said Esther, speaking in the local Hausa
language. She continued: “they started to loot everything, then they took hold
of my husband and told him to convert to Islam. When he refused, he was
slaughtered in front of my eyes.”
Rose’s husband “was
shot right in the forehead” for refusing to convert to Islam. Grief overwhelmed
Agnes, 40 years-old and the mother of nine, when she recounted how she was
unable to bury her beloved husband. She said: “My husband was a builder; he was
working outside of a house when Boko Haram surrounded all the people and gunned
them down. The terrorists didn’t allow anybody to into the place to recover the
bodies. No burial was possible, no funeral could be celebrated. They just left
the bodies to rot there.”
These stories are but some
examples of the thousands of traumatic experiences that Nigerian women in
Maiduguri have endured in recent times. Kathrin, Helene, Justine, Juliette, Hanna…5000
women have a powerful story to tell; and although their faces appear composed,
their hearts are full of pain. In order to assist these highly traumatized women,
part of a $75,000 ACN grant to support the widows and orphans will go toward
The widows are also
trained in how to take care of their basic needs on their own, without the
benefit of their husbands’ income. Most of the widows have more than six
children to feed and educate. Most of them refuse to marry again because they
still feel very close to their husbands. Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri has
created the “St. Judith widow association,” with the purpose of tailoring aid
for the particular circumstances of every individual in need. Another part of
the ACN project covers school fees & the feeding of orphans and semi-orphans.
The three northeastern
states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa lie at the center of Boko Haram activities.
The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri covers two and half of these states. Since
2009, more than 200 churches and mission stations, numerous rectories, 25
schools, three hospitals, three convents, countless shops, homes and business
centers have been destroyed by Boko Haram.Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people, while 26 million people
have suffered indirectly from the conflict and 2.3 million children and youth
have been deprived of access to education.
Nigerian widows whose husbands were killed by Boko Haram; ACN photo