Widow Rikiya on her field in Guyaka, northeastern Nigeria.
No matter where you live in the world, being widowed is very, very hard.
Most of us have experienced grief at some point, and know the pain and disorientation that it can cause. In this difficult time, facing coronavirus, we’re more aware of this than ever. Grief is the same everywhere. In Nigeria, losing your husband can have an additional, drastic effect: being widowed can lead to social and economic exclusion and poverty.
That’s what Rikiya found after her husband died – and that’s why your support can make an enormous difference in the life of a vulnerable Christian widow.
RUNNING FROM ATTACK
Rikiya was married for nine years, during which she and her husband had three children: Jennifer, Peace and Joshua. In the ninth year, her husband became ill. Tragically, only two days after his symptoms appeared, he died. Rikiya was still in mourning when Islamic extremists Boko Haram came to attack her village.
She and her children managed to escape Boko Haram, and stayed in a local town for two months. When it was safe to return home, Rikiya found that her home and all her possessions had been destroyed.
“I was so traumatised,” says Rikiya. “My husband was gone, and Boko Haram had captured our village. We had nothing except the clothes on our backs.”
THE SPREAD OF ISLAMIC EXTREMISM
Islamic extremism is spreading across West Africa. While Nigeria has remained at number 12 on Open Doors World Watch List, Burkina Faso has seen a shocking rise (from 61 to 28) and Cameroon is on the list for the first time, at 48. The numbers of violent attacks are increasing in these countries, and various Islamic militant groups are taking advantage of instability in several nations.
Each time, they have killed and abducted people, burned down houses and left many lives and livelihoods destroyed. These senseless killings leave behind vulnerable widows – and their lives don’t get easier once the militants have gone.
Today, Christian women like Rikiya are doubly vulnerable: targeted for their gender and their faith. They are singled out for violence, then face social exclusion, leading to trauma and poverty.
In Jesus’ day, women had low social status, as in many parts of the world today. But Jesus treated women differently, seeing beyond the judgments of his society and affording them dignity and honour. When Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to Mary Magdalene first. John 20:18 tells us: “Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, ‘I have seen the Lord.’”
i see you
Persecuted women are often hidden, their suffering invisible. Just as Mary Magdalene saw the Lord that first Easter, so the Lord sees the suffering of women who are persecuted today. Jesus sees pain and replaces it with love: at Easter, and every day.
This Easter, as we celebrate his resurrection, we have the opportunity to ‘see’ our sisters who are suffering, and to sow seeds of hope in their lives.
Rikiya has begun the long road to recovery – and many like her face this same hard journey. With your support and prayers, they won’t have to make that journey alone, without hope.
Her name means ‘exalted by the Lord.’ God is using the support and prayers of her worldwide family to make that promise a reality.
“I am healed [from my trauma], and I always tell people you healed me,” Rikiya says. “Thank you.”
Your Easter gift and prayers sow seeds of hope for women, like Rikiya, who are persecuted for their faith and gender.
Thanks to the support of people like you, Open Doors’ Trauma Centre, opened its doors officially in March 2019. It is specially set up for Christians in Nigeria who have suffered all sorts of trauma and persecution, and provides a temporary respite and place of healing for them. The Centre also trains the Nigerian church to provide trauma care for their people.
Every HK$170 could provide a widow with a loan to buy seeds and equipment so that she can become self-sufficient.
Every HK$540 could provide trauma care and healing for a Nigerian woman who has suffered violent persecution.
(It might not be the right time for you to make a donation today, please only donate if you feel able. Your prayers are the most important gift you can give at this time.)