For three years Bahdri Diallo killed Christians and raided villages in northern Nigeria as a member of Boko Haram. Then, one day, he recalled a memory from his youth. A flashback of his younger brother’s innocence revived the guilt and anguish which had quietly consumed his heart.
“Automatically, this reminded me of children his age that I had murdered”, Bahdri said. “I felt wretched. I hated myself for what I had done”.
Bahdri eagerly sought an opportunity to leave Boko Haram, but if caught, he knew he would be killed.
One night, as the Nigerian army attacked and bombs exploded all around him, Bahdri ran into a nearby forest. He threw away his gun and combat boots, and headed for home. Once there, he visited the pastor who had led him to Christ years earlier.
“I had disappeared and been away for three years, but when he saw me again, he opened his arms to embrace me”, he recalled. “I laid my head on him and wept bitter tears. He didn’t ask me any questions. I could only cry”.
Dreams of a ‘Dead Prophet’
Growing up, Bahdri was taught that Islam is the only true religion and Christianity is a dangerous lie.
In college, Bahdri gained a new roommate — the first Christian he had ever met. As he got to know his new Christian friend, Bahdri began to question Islam and everything he had been taught about Christianity.
Then Bahdri had a dream. “I saw a man clothed in white, who said to me, ‘Leave the path you are now following’”, he recalled.
After hearing about the dreams, Bahdri’s roommate urged him to visit his pastor.
“When I shared my dreams with the preacher, he said it could be Jesus Himself using them to bring me a warning”, he said. “I was baffled. How could a dead prophet speak to me in a dream?” For three weeks, Bahdri and the pastor had deep conversations about Christianity.
“Ultimately, I became convinced that the Bible was the Word of God”, he said. “I was baptised in secret”.
When Bahdri’s family learned of his conversion, his father locked him in a cellar and threatened to kill him if he didn’t return to Islam within two weeks. But before the two weeks were up, a younger sister helped him escape.
Eventually, he met a man who offered to let Bahdri stay with him for a few days.
Forced to kill
The man who offered to help Bahdri led him toward several buildings in a fenced off area. Once inside the compound, Bahdri realised he had been tricked. He was in a Boko Haram training camp.
For three years, he was subjected to daily, systematic brainwashing, even losing his identity. He described the atmosphere as “terrifying” and filled with “hate”. His days were punctuated by readings from the Koran and terrorist training, which was aimed directly at harming Christians.
Bahdri grew depressed. Still young in his faith, he began to doubt Christianity, thinking God had abandoned him.
As his faith decreased, Bahdri’s shooting skills improved. He loved the feeling of power that guns gave him. After three months of training, all the fighters were ordered to attack Christians in nearby villages.
While he didn’t take pleasure in the killings at first, they became so routine that he eventually felt no remorse.
“I had to murder people to survive”, he said. “If I refused, I would myself have been murdered”.
When Bahdri was at his lowest point, God gave him a memory of his brother’s youthful innocence. Today he counsels young men who have fled Boko Haram and leads them in Bible studies. The goal is to help them regain everything that was stolen from them.
Weeping bitter tears
Five years after escaping militant Islam, Bahdri is still overcoming guilt through the blood of Jesus.
“I wrestle with my past”, he said. “Lord, forgive me! I wasted the best years of my life on Boko Haram. I led men on to murder, and I committed murder myself. I feel so awful about that. I still weep bitter tears over those sins”.