“I received N 250,000, a gun and ammunition when I was captured by Boko Haram and forced to join them. We were all expected to kill one or two of our blood brothers. If you refused, they would kill you and take back what they gave you.” A member of EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, or Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) spoke of his four-month ordeal, as Markus Gamache and I sat in a car at a gas station, to give him anonymity.
The way he got out of actually raiding, looting, or killing, was to have an excuse to leave for some family need, each time an action was planned, but he knew he couldn’t keep this up much longer. “I also didn’t swallow the ‘charm’, the drug they gave you that makes you compliant and hard to think for yourself.”
Before being captured, he had been straying from his faith, but while with Boko Haram, he knew that what they wanted him to do was evil, and he returned to his beliefs. In captivity, he and several other captured Christian men secretly communicated about how to deal with their dilemma and how to escape.
When he had a chance, he went out into “the bush,” and was able to escape from the camp. He contacted Markus, who sent him money to get to the town, where he currently lives. Markus has been paying the rent and expenses for him and his family. Many Christians in Nigeria would not have taken the risk to reach out and help such a person, because of the fear that he might secretly still be working for the militant group. “Usually Christians who have been with Boko Haram, but escaped, are not accepted back into the Christian community,” Markus explained, “but the people in the EYN congregation here, have accepted him. And now his faith and determination to live it out has been strengthened by what he went through.”
Another man, that Markus Gamache helped escape Boko Haram’s army, was a Muslim in his early 20’s, who had been coerced to join and fight with them. Out of fear, his father also cooperated with the militant group, but didn’t strictly follow their orders. The father contacted Markus and asked if he would help his son if he escaped, and gave the son Markus’s phone number.
After five months, the son managed to escape into the bush where local people helped him. He called Markus, who sent him traveling money and arranged for people to help him get to Jos. There, he went to Markus’s home in the EYN temporary headquarters compound. Some of the security personnel and others there considered the man untrustworthy and possibly dangerous, and wanted him arrested. Markus kept the young man in his office, where he and the EYN president talked to him and intervened on his behalf, refusing to let the security guards take him. Markus got him to his house, fed him, and then arranged for him to stay three nights at his brothers home, until he was able to travel to another northern Nigeria city.
I find it refreshing and inspiring to find Christians today who are living out their calling to love and to care for their “enemies.” How would we respond to people we come in contact with who had been involved in violence against people like ourselves or who may seem suspicious?