Sadiya Amos, aged 17, went missing from north central Kaduna in northern Nigeria on the night of 5th January.
On 7th January, some men came to force her father Amos Chindo to attend a Sharia court in Anchau (in Kubau) without telling him what offence he had committed or even allowing him to tell his family where he was going.
A self-proclaimed lawyer, together with the Sharia judge, threatened that Chindo was preventing his daughter Sadiya from converting to Islam. The said ‘lawyer’, with the judge, had forged a birth certificate to raise Sadiya’s age from 17 to 19 years old to support their claim. The ‘lawyer’ – who claimed to speak for Sadiya – refused the father access to her, or even to know her where she was. They then adjourned the trial to 14th January, 2020.
The Anglican Bishop of Ikara Diocese, Yusuf Janfalan, who leads the church that the Chindo family attends, sent priests that day to tell the court that – since both Sadiya and her parents are Christians – the Sharia court has no official jurisdiction over the family.
The judge didn’t even give the priests the chance to speak, nor Sadiya’s parents. Instead, the Sharia judge read his pre-determined judgment and closed the case – without Sadiya even present in court.
Sadiya says she was abducted, kept in a locked room for over a month and forced to convert to Islam; some men guarded her room so she couldn’t escape. But one day, they all fell asleep leaving the door open; she quickly ran out and back to her parents.
As World Watch Monitor has reported, the Hausa Christian Foundation (HACFO) has rescued a number of girls from similar circumstances over the past three years, from across northern Nigeria. HACFO’s leader Joshua Danlami told WWM:
“The moment these girls are abducted, they are subjected to all manner of evil just to take control of their minds. Once their minds are affected, these girls will do everything they are asked to do. While the parents fight to free their daughters, the abductors continue to sexually abuse the girls, spike their food and drink, control what they wear and where they sleep, and continually evoke evil spirits upon them to the point that these girls completely lose their minds and can’t think of going back to their homes. Usually, the moment a Christian girl is abducted, her abductors ensure that they marry her off within one or two weeks. Even before marriage, she will be sexually abused to try to make her parents give up on her when she becomes pregnant.
“There are two major objectives behind the incessant kidnapping of Christian girls and their forceful conversion to Islam: one -to inflict pain on the girl, her parents and the Christian community; and, two, to make the girl pregnant so that her child will then be born into Islam, contributing to claims that it’s the fastest growing religion in the world.
“The abductors know the chance of a successful prosecution against them is very low; that’s why they resort to attacking young women, who are often not well-educated, to reproduce with them. We call on the Christian communities to remain vigilant. This fight is becoming intense and the damages are overwhelming”.
While the horrific experiences of teenage girls such as the Chibok girls have been reported around the world, the less extreme – but equally as devastating both personally and communally – cases of girls abducted by men known in their own communities are much less reported. The perpetrators even include university lecturers or even religious leaders. In one case, a teenager was kidnapped, eventually returned to her family after a long struggle, but then – shortly after – her younger sister was kidnapped! For the second time, the parents found themselves fighting to get their daughter back from a neighbouring community.
Especially where extended families comprise generations of Christians who in the past converted from a Muslim background, a perpetrator can go around publicly boasting that he’s done something commendable in Islam because the young Christian girl is an ‘infidel’ or an ‘apostate’.
These strategies are frequently reported in the recently-published Gender Specific Persecution Report produced by Open Doors international. This shows that the most-reported strategy of persecution used against Christian women – where the Church is under pressure for its faith – is sexual violence. The second most reported strategy is forced marriage. Both were quoted by 84% of respondents.
These strategies are particularly destructive because they are often hidden and the victims isolated. So while the victims are physically alive, as Sadiya was in her locked room, she was in a ‘living death’, forcibly separated from her family, her faith and everything she had ever known, with no prospect of return if she hadn’t managed to escape.
In addition to what might be called ‘community’ kidnappings, prominent Christian leaders in northern Nigeria continue to be targeted via the kidnap of their wives by gunmen, usually for a ransom.
The wife of the Bishop of Bari diocese in Kano State, in the north, was kidnapped by gunmen, with a diocesan secretary named as Deborah, on 10 March. The gunmen reportedly laid siege to the town of Gidan Mato in Bari – where the Anglican Cathedral and Bishop’s Court are situated – and looted the town and these properties. The Bishop, Idris Ado Zubairu, was away in Plateau state at the time.
Gunmen then contacted relatives to demand a ransom for the women’s return. An announcement that both women were freed came during a consecration service of five new Anglican bishops and the installation of two archbishops. The Primate of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, gave the news, but there were no more details from the Church of Nigeria, nor from the police.
Meanwhile, despite numerous assurances from President Buhari that he would find and rescue all those women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram – including the 100 or so Chibok girls still missing as the sixth anniversary of their abduction approaches (14 April, 2014) there is no more news of them.
In a video that surfaced shortly after the mass abduction, a man identified as Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, claimed that the missing schoolgirls had been converted to Islam and forced to marry Muslim men. “I am the one who captured all those girls and will sell all of them,” the man in the video said. “I have a market where I sell human beings because it is Allah who says I should sell human beings. Yes, I will sell women.”
In 2014, Nigeria was 14th on the annual Open Doors World Watch List of the most difficult countries in which to live as a Christian. In the 2020 List, it has risen to 13th.
After he came to power in 2105 President, Muhammadu Buhari, pledged in his acceptance speech to end Boko Haram’s insurgency, but almost five years on, the insecurity in the north seems not to have greatly improved, despite the Nigerian Army’s constant reassurances.
The group continues to hold now-16 year old Leah Sharibu, the only one of 110 girls kidnapped in February 2018 to remain in captivity. She was the only one who rejected the offer of her freedom – if only she would convert to Islam, refusing to renounce her Christian faith. Her mother recently visited the UK to plead for international pressure on the Nigerian government to fulfil its promise to find and free the teenager.