A recent United Nations report found that in Nigeria, Boko Haram specifically targets Christians and other religious minorities for slavery and forced marriages. Among certain minority groups, as many as three out of four women are forced into marriage, even though consent to marriage is required under Nigerian law.
It’s a story many Nigerian girls and women are all too familiar with. Greg Musselman of Voice of the Martyrs Canada recounts the story of Lena,* “a 14-year-old girl had become a Christian from a Muslim background. In fact, her father was an Imam, a leader in the mosque. Through the witness of her friends and hearing the message of Jesus, she made the decision to follow Christ. As a 14-year-old girl, she knew that that was going to cause problems.”
She was right. When he learned of her conversion, her father physically abused her and forced her to marry a much older man. She held on to her faith, however, and within a year, had the marriage dissolved in court.
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Eventually, she attended a “disciple school” for new believers. She could not read or write, and yet she excelled in her classes. According to Musselman, she quickly formed her plan for the future: “Her desire was to become a pastor and evangelist and share the message of Jesus in the very community that persecuted her.”
Unfortunately, Lena’s troubles weren’t over. Shortly after her divorce, her own brother set her up to suffer violent sexual assault. She survived the assault and became pregnant. At first, she considered an abortion, but her brothers and sisters in Christ convinced her to keep the baby. When Lena’s daughter was born, Lena named her “Beloved.”
Two and a half years later, Beloved – Love, for short – is thriving, as is her mother. “[Lena] is training at the vocational school getting Bible training, and she is doing really well,” Musselman says. “She’s gonna need continued healing – that’s the trauma that many of these young ladies, girls, and women have gone through – but that’s why we need to be going to the next step.”
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What is the next step? Discipleship. Counselling. Support from other believers. And of course, a continued and cultivated relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you want to support Voice of the Martyrs Canada and the programs they sponsor in Nigeria, click here. In the mean time, pray for the continued courage of women like Lena who turn their trauma into opportunity through the justice and mercy of Jesus Christ.
*Name changed to protect identity
This story originally appeared at Mission Network News and is republished here with permission.