Teen Who Refused to Renounce Christ Despite Rape by Boko Haram Faces Rejection at Home

Women gather at a water collecting point at the internally displaced people's camp in Bama, Borno State, Nigeria, August 31, 2016.
Women gather at a water collecting point at the internally displaced people's camp in Bama, Borno State, Nigeria, August 31, 2016. | (Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

For a Nigerian teenager who was raped and tormented by Boko Haram for nearly a year, as she refused to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ, her nightmare didn't end when she was rescued and returned to her village. 

Though she is now home, Esther, as described by Open Doors USA, is facing rejection and abuse for being a "Boko Haram woman."

Esther was held in captivity in northern Nigeria for close to a year after her village was raided and her father was killed by Boko Haram radicals.

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The Christian woman was pressured but refused to abandon her faith in Jesus, for which she was punished for and raped multiple times by different men.

When she was finally rescued by soldiers and returned back to her village, however, she was treated in much the same way as many women who have been forced to bear Boko Haram children.

Family and friends turned her away, believing that her baby would inherit the father's "bad blood," a belief associated with witchcraft that is still prevalent in parts of the country. They even named the child "Boko" though her mother named her Rebekah.

Scores of other women that have been forced to marry Boko Haram fighters or have been impregnated as a result of rape have shared of similar experiences, as reported by NPR and many others.

At least 3,000 women and girls are believed to have been kidnapped by the terror group since it began carrying out its raids in 2009. The terrorists, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, have been killing Christians and other civilians throughout the country, also expanding their raids into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Women and children who have been abused by Boko Haram have sometimes also been raped and betrayed by soldiers who are supposed to be defending them, a major report by Amnesty International revealed in May.

"The soldiers, they betrayed us, they said that we should come out of from our villages. They said it would be safer and that they would give us a secure place to stay. But when we came, they betrayed us," a 35-year-old woman named Yakura said in the report.

"They detained our husbands and then they raped us women," she added.

Amnesty interviewed more than 250 people over a two-year period in preparing its report, determining that thousands of women and girls who were rescued have been mistreated.

Open Doors has been providing trauma counseling to Esther and other Boko Haram victims, and the church community has been helping such women who have been rejected by their families.

Esther and others were encouraged to write down their burdens on a piece of paper and pin them to a wooden cross.

"When I pinned that piece of paper to the cross, it felt like I was handing over all of my sorrow to God," Esther said.

The teenage mother has been learning to find peace despite the horrors she has suffered and the rejection from her community.

"Some of those people who used to mock me now ask me my secret," Esther said. "I tell them, 'I forgave my enemies and now trust God to take vengeance in His time.'"

Esther is now living with her grandparents, finally receiving the support that she needs. The mother says that her daughter now means everything to her.

"Rebekah has become my joy and laughter amid sadness," she said.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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