When Boko Haram fighters stormed Regina Wilson’s village on 24 October 2014, she was ready to meet them. For several years, she had heard stories about Boko Haram’s brutal attacks on Christian villages in northern Nigeria. She knew that her village in Adamawa state — just south of the terrorist group’s stronghold in Borno state — could easily become a target.
“I once thought that even if I should be captured by Boko Haram, I will never deny my faith in Christ Jesus,” she said. “So when we met them, my mind was made up beforehand since I know who I serve.”
One by one, the attackers asked villagers if they were Christian or Muslim. Regina and her family boldly declared their faith in Christ. The fighters then promised them that if they turned to Islam, they would be given a hijab as a sign of their new faith.
When they refused to speak, Regina and her four children, ranging in age from 8 to 18, were abducted and taken to a nearby house. They also took three of her sister’s children, who were with them when the attack occurred.
“Our attackers grabbed us and took us to a house and started preaching Islam,” Regina said, saying that what we were being told in churches is not true, that Christianity is a false religion, that Islam is the only true religion. The preaching continued, but we uttered no word.
“I only remembered what Jesus told Peter — ‘Before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times,’ and it encouraged me not to deny Jesus like Peter did.”
A son sacrificed
Less than 24 hours after the abduction, Regina watched Boko Haram fighters kill three men, including her eldest son, 16-year-old Hyelda.
“They slit his throat with a machete,” Regina said. “One of my neighbours was among the three men killed at that time. They were slaughtered like rams. I almost became mad. I felt as if it affects me mentally, but with prayers I am coping well and getting better day by day.”
Although Hyelda was taken from her, Regina thanks God that her son knew Christ.
Boko Haram has terrorised northern Nigeria for more than 13 years. And since Abubakar Shekau gained control in 2009, the group has slaughtered an estimated 17,500 people, mostly Christians.
After Hyelda and the other men were killed, a young woman secretly called a friend in the Nigerian military. She gave him their location and explained the situation, and her friend promised to send help.
Within a day, a military helicopter attacked the compound, killing three of the ten Boko Haram fighters who had been guarding the Christians from Regina’s village. In addition, many other militants as well as their captives suffered serious injuries in the attack.
Regina’s 8-year-old son, Praise, was blinded in one eye, and her 12-year-old son, Wandiya, suffered injuries to his leg, eyes and hands. Her niece, Evelyn, lost her right leg in the attack. “A lot of innocent people died,” she said.
In the chaos, she even said “goodbye” to Wandiya, who believed he was dying from his injuries.
“Wandiya said I should pray for him and that I should leave him behind to die so that I can escape with the other children, because the injuries he sustained were so bad,” she said. “I prayed with him and we left.”
Regina, Praise and other survivors walked for two days to reach the nearest hospital. After Nigerian soldiers rescued Wandiya and the others, the family was reunited in a refugee camp.
A daughter taken
Regina said that even if she had known what would happen to her family, she still would have told Boko Haram that she was a Christian. She struggles to forgive them, however.
“God said ‘If some hurt you, you should forgive that person,’ so I have forgiven them, but to forget will be too hard,” she said.
Regina is still mourning the death of her eldest son and the innocence stolen from her remaining children. Her eldest daughter, 18-year-old Peace, is missing.
As with many young girls abducted by Boko Haram, she may have been married off to one of their fighters.
“As a result, I am almost paralysed because of so many thoughts running through my mind,” Regina said.
Taking a deep breath, she continued. “My faith is strong. I am strong in the Lord. I will keep trusting Him more and keep holding onto Him.”
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