Dzangola is a remote Nigerian village in Adamawa State that rests neatly between a wadi that runs to the east—one must cross this ravine to visit the village—and endless rolling hills to the west. The remote location adds to the beauty, but it’s also what makes the people a vulnerable target for militant groups like Boko Haram.

Responsible for thousands of deaths and abductions in Nigeria, Boko Haram is one of the most infamous terror groups in the world. Their goal is to establish an Islamic state based on their version of Islam, in Nigeria*.

In the last five years, Boko Haram has attacked Dzangola three times—once in 2014, once in 2015 and again in 2017. Each time leaving a trail of burning homes, abductions, loss and pain.

SURVIVED THE ATTACK

“My husband was killed in the first attack,” Kwate says.

Boko Haram came at night, calling villagers out by name. No one is sure where they got the names, but they used this tactic to appear friendly to pull villagers out of their homes and expose them.

“Before I came out, the [attackers] pushed my husband and locked him in the room. I kept shouting and screaming, and they kept shouting and screaming too,” Kwate says.

In the commotion, Kwate saw an opportunity to escape and she slipped away from the attackers in the darkness.

But as Kwate hid, the members of Boko Haram set her house on fire—with her husband inside.

Kwate walks us to the back of her property, where there’s a pile of burnt corrugated steel. “This was where they killed him,” she says, “and this is the door where they pulled him inside the room.”

STRUGGLES SHE FACED FROM THE TRAUMA

Later, Kwate tells us more about her life and the struggles she faced from the trauma. She keeps folding her hands over one another. They are strong and rough from years of farming the Nigerian soil. When we pray together, she reaches out and holds our hands. The warmth is unmistakable.

“In the afternoon, I am normal and happy, but when night comes, and I remember what happened to my husband, I began to cry,” she shares through tears.

Kwate attends the Open Doors trauma counselling sessions in her village. “There is a woman who comes every Sunday, she will even come tomorrow. All the widows whose husbands were killed, we read the Bible and pray together. The trauma healing has really helped us,” she says.

As for her enemies, her husband’s killers, she takes a long pause and says: “I can forgive them, I have forgiven them.”

The Nigerian culture is all about survival, and Kwate’s needs are great—as an elderly widow, she’s doing her best to continue to provide for herself. “I still go to farm, and the little I get, I am feeding myself,” she says. “Please pray that God will help me, as I continue to farm and fend for myself.”

The story isn’t over for the widows of Dzangola They’ve seen their relatives being killed and communities destroyed. They’ve faced near-starvation in makeshift shelters, and even worse abuses at refugee camps.

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Every HK$540 could provide trauma care and long term spiritual healing for a Nigerian woman who has suffered violent persecution.

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