Nigeria: You Can't Kill My Soul

John Yakubu had nothing. When he and his family were forced to flee Attagara, a village in northeastern Nigeria, after a Boko Haram attack, they were just barely surviving in a refugee camp. Boko Haram terrorists have viciously killed thousands, destroyed villages, burned homes, businesses and churches, and kidnapped hundreds of women, including more than 200 girls from a Chibok school in April, intent on creating an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

The attacks against Attagara were well-planned and carried out with typical brutality. Over 100 militants dressed in military uniforms swarmed the predominantly Christian village just as Sunday church services were beginning on June 1. The rebels opened fire on the village and went after people with their machetes. 55-year-old Sawaltha Wandala witnessed the Boko Haram slaughtering children at a church as he arrived for the second service. He saw the men throw one child into a ditch. More concerned for the child than his own safety, he picked up the 6-year-old boy, who had survived being severely slashed, and immediately rushed to take the child to the hospital in Cameroon. Sawaltha was stopped by five insurgents, who grabbed the boy from his arms and beheaded him, before turning to beat Sawaltha with tree branches. They finished their attack striking him in the head with a large rock, leaving him for dead with blood running from his nose and mouth.

After decimating the village and sending residents fleeing, Boko Haram returned two days later in a second series of attacks on several other villages in the Gwoza district. The back to back attacks left an estimated 200 people, including small children, dead. John Yakubu and his family were among those who fled across the border into neighboring Cameroon.

With his family facing starvation in the refugee camp, John decided to make a quick trip back to Attagara to retrieve some of his animals hoping he could sell them to support his family. Though it was dangerous, there seemed to be no other choice. At home, he decided to pick up some of the family’s other belongings, including the family Bible.

Boko Haram insurgents spotted him entering the house, and quickly captured him. “We know you’re John,” the militants said to him. “You must convert to Islam or else you will die a painful death.”

When John refused, the men tied him to a tree binding his arms and legs. The men hacked both of John’s hands with a heavy knife and mocked him. “Can you become a Muslim now?”

“You can kill my body, but not my soul,” John shouted in pain.

Using a machete as well as the knife, the men continued to torture John. They repeatedly cut into his feet and his back, stopping only to ask him if he would give up his faith in Christ and follow Allah. John refused. “We will show you,” they told him. The insurgents used an axe to cut so deeply into his knee that it reached the bone. His head was slashed with a knife.

Eventually, John lost consciousness. At some point, the terrorists left, and John was left bleeding and tied to the tree for three days before someone rescued him and he was taken to a hospital in a coma.

In the hospital, a VOM worker met John. When the worker asked John how he felt about his attackers, he replied, “I have forgiven the Islamic militants, because they did not know what they are doing.”

Some reports indicate that Boko Haram militants have killed three thousand people this year alone, and vicious raids continue with alarming frequency, leaving many seriously wounded. VOM is assisting more than 30 people who were seriously injured in the attacks in Gwoza, in addition to providing assistance to refugees driven out in the crisis.

Source: VOM Sources

Posted: August 25, 2014


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