Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Unsurprisingly, Michelle Obama’s “hashtag” campaign from four years back failed abysmally to prevail upon the violent jihadist group Boko Haram to return the hundreds of Nigerian school girls who it abducted.

And while the American media gave audiences the impression that this attack by militant Muslims against young Christian girls was a one-off, the truth is that Boko Haram has been conducting a reign of terror upon Nigeria’s Christian inhabitants for years.  When men are included, the total number of victims of Boko Haram is estimated to be at 20,000.

Some, like 17 year-old Esther, have managed to return home.

On a day that started like any other in October of 2015, Esther’s life would forever change. Esther’s mother had already passed away.  She lived with her sick father, for whom she cared when she wasn’t in school.  But the day that Boko Haram besieged her town would be the last day that she would ever see him alive.

Esther and her father heard the first gunshots. They tried to escape, but the terrorists already had their home surrounded.  Open Doors shares what happened next:

“The rebel militants struck down her [Esther’s] father and left him in a heap on the ground.  Esther became a Boko Haram captive.  As rebel fighters carried off her and several other young women in their town to their hideout in the Sambisa Forest (where Boko Haram drove thousands of those they kidnapped), she continued to look back, her eyes fixed on her father.”

To this day, two-and-a-half years later, Esther still doesn’t know for sure whether her father is alive or dead. Yet she suspects the latter.

For the next year, Esther endured a nightmare that few people can imagine.  Deep in the Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram corralled their female victims, to whom they initially promised privileges in exchange for renunciation of the girls’ Christian faith.  When this tactic didn’t work, the terrorist thugs resorted to brute violence.

Esther says that several of the girls could no longer resist.  However, she continued to do so.  Esther tells Open Doors that she told herself: “If I perish, I perish. But I will not become a Muslim.

Though Esther is to be commended for her courage and faith, she paid a price for her resistance.  Through tears, she recalls:

“I cannot recall how many men raped me.”

Esther states that every time the men returned from an attack, they would take turns raping their captors.  She adds that they would “defile us [.]”

Regaining her composure, Esther continues, relaying how with each “passing day, I hated myself more and more.”  She “felt that God had forsaken me,” and “was so angry with Him [.]” Nevertheless, “I could not get myself to renounce Him” and “found myself remembering His promise to never leave or forsake me.”

During her year at the mercies of her tormentors, Esther conceived a child.  Given that she was raped by countless men, she remains oblivious to the identity of her child’s father.  Esther recalls her immediate thought upon learning that she was pregnant: “I had no idea how on Earth I would ever be able to love this child.”

In November of 2016, the Nigerian military liberated Esther and her fellow prisoners. Yet upon returning to their communities, where they had hoped to have found support, the girls encountered cruelty of another kind.

The residents of their villages ostracized and shamed them.

Esther and the other victims were ridiculed by their own people as “Boko Haram women.”

Salamatu Umar was only 15 when she was captured by Boko Haram in 2015.  She was forced into marriage with one of her captors.  Pregnant, she escaped while out collecting firewood for cooking.  But when she returned home, her ordeal endured.  As she told NPR: “People call me ‘Boko Haram wife’ to my face.  They say I am the wife of a killer—so how can I be afraid of Boko Haram?  They say my son is a Boko Haram baby.”

In 2016, UNICEF released a report on this phenomenon:

“Women and girls who have been subjected to sexual violence have been returning to their communities…Some are returning with their children who were born as a result of sexual violence.   As they return, many face marginalization, discrimination and rejection by family and community members due to social and cultural norms to sexual violence.”

Supposedly, there is fear that the girls had been indoctrinated and radicalized by their Islamic captors, as well as fear that the offspring of these rapists will grow up to become like their fathers.

According to Esther, her fellow villagers “mocked me because I was pregnant.”  And it wasn’t just the members of her community, but her own family who ridiculed and alienated her. “Even my grandparents despised me and called me names.”

Sobbing, she tells Open Doors: “I felt so lonely.”

Yet Esther was further pained by the way in which her daughter Rebecca was treated.  “What broke my heart even more was that they refused to call my daughter Rebecca.  They referred to her only as ‘Boko.’”

Esther eventually attended an Open Doors trauma care seminar. The caregiver had Esther and the other attendees who had been victimized by Boko Haram write their burdens on a piece of paper that they were then instructed to pin to a hand-carved 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 recalls. “When the trainer later removed all the pieces of paper from the cross and burnt them to ashes, I felt like my sorrow and shame disappeared, never to come back again.”

Esther continues to seek trauma counseling.  Today she and her daughter live with her grandparents and life has become more tolerable. She claims to have forgiven her enemies and expresses confidence that God will exact vengeance against her tormentors on His own terms.

Neither Michelle Obama nor anyone else associated with the so-called #MeToo movement in the West has uttered a syllable regarding the countless Esthers of the world, young women who have endured, not sexual harassment, but sexual brutality and its aftermath the likes of which are unimaginable to those of us who have the luxury and privilege of living in the United States of 2018.

Esther won’t be asked to speak at the Oscars or the Emmys.  Nor will she be invited to speak at an American or Western university.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

Esther is a black African Christian and her persecutors are black African Muslims.

From the vantage of Western leftists, there’s nothing to see here.

 

 

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