Warning: Mary’s story contains content that some may find distressing.
For 54 days, Mary* was held captive by extremist Fulani militants. She was sexually abused, repeatedly. Mocked for her faith. Forced to cook for her captors while she had only animal food to eat.
The ordeal, deep in the forests of northwest Nigeria, had one purpose: to destroy this 20-year-old woman’s faith in Jesus and destabilize her Christian community. It’s a tactic employed by Islamic militants across sub-Saharan Africa, who are becoming
increasingly violent, brutal and murderous in their persecution of believers.
"They attack Christians because we worship Jesus and they want us out of this land."
“We were in Sunday service when we heard a gunshot,” recalled Mary. “Everybody started running, running, running. Some were falling down. They attack Christians because we worship Jesus and they want us out of this land.”
In the chaos and killing, Mary heard her sister calling—and went back. It was a mistake. Mary and three other women were captured by the militants. “They said if we didn’t go with them, they’d kill us,” she said.
What happened over the coming weeks changed Mary forever. But amid the fear, pain and humiliation, Mary held onto her faith. She even had the courage to share the gospel with her captors.
“If you give your life to Jesus, He will forgive
you and you can stop all these things you are doing,” Mary told them.
Somehow, Mary’s family raised the money to pay the ransom for her release. They borrowed more than they could ever repay—which, in Nigeria’s honour culture, brought shame they could not shake off.
But despite her freedom, Mary still suffered
. “The pain wasn’t over,” she said. “Every night, I dreamed of what happened to me. I couldn’t be around people. I laughed, but not in my heart. I didn’t have peace.”
“Help us and pray for Nigeria”
That’s when your support, through Open Doors, made a difference. Mary was invited to our trauma care centre, where she received trauma counselling and rediscovered her identity in Christ. Open Doors partners also helped buy essentials for the family and
fund Mary’s education, since there was no money for school after paying the ransom.
Mary knew the power of prayer – and asks for us to pray for her and all Christians in Nigeria. “I know it is fulfilment of the Bible – He said, because we are His children, that the world will persecute us,” she says. “The world will deny us because we
are not of the world. We are of heaven. We are the children of God. That is why the world is persecuting us.
"I want the brothers and sisters around the world to help us and pray for Nigeria"
“We are facing many problems, many challenges in our daily lives. I want the brothers and sisters around the world to help us and pray for Nigeria, that the Lord will intervene and let His peace rain upon this earth.”
Mary (left) walking with a counsellor in the Open Doors trauma care centre
But sadly, this faithful young woman recently died from complications relating to a surgery. But both Mary and her family wanted her story to be heard, as many stories like hers remain hidden.
Our vision is that no one faces persecution
and trauma alone.
In her final interview with Open Doors, Mary said: “I thank God for the peace He brings to my life. And I thank Him for using people like you to help me.”
*These are real photos of Mary, but due to security for her family we've had to disguise her name and full photograph
Take part in the Arise Africa Week of Prayer (16-23 July): Download prayer guide
- Give thanks for Mary’s life and faith and pray for her family as they grieve.
- Pray for God’s protection over other young Christian women in Nigeria, who live with daily risk.
- Stand as one with the church in Africa, and pray boldly for an end to violent persecution.