Christian teenager who escaped Boko Haram witnessed beheadings and forced conversions to Islam


A girl kidnapped by Boko Haram escaped by walking seven hours through a forest at night with her mother and five younger brothers.

Victoria Yohanna, 15, shared the story of her kidnapping and escape at the launch of Aid to the Church in Need's report on Christians oppressed for their faith, "Persecuted and Forgotten?"

Unable to speak English, her parish priest Father Gideon translated her tale.

Yohanna was kidnapped along with her mother and five younger brothers from Baga in north-east Borno State in January.

She described waking to the "deafening sounds of explosions and heavy gunshots in the early hours of the morning.

"Boko Haram surrounded the city and went from home to home arresting people. Of course they wanted to form a counterfeit caliphate."

Victoria, her mother and brothers were captured by Boko Haram and taken to a camp. On the way she described how, "amidst intense gunfire, I saw how young adults were beheaded."

On arrival, her brothers were forced into "Koranic instruction" in order to train them to become Boko Haram terrorists in the future.

"The Christian women were forced to recount their faith and become wives of the terrorists or be killed."

Victoria and her family manage to escape from the group to safety. 

"The mother collected her children from the koranic instruction centre explaining that some were sick and needed to take their tablets. When the terrorist in charge allowed her, that night she asked her children to pray hard again. So they snuck out of the camp and a cold night in the forest they moved for more than seven hours to a safer place" and were eventually rescued by government troops.

They were transported to Maiduguri by van and to safety.

Father Gideon shared that for a long while Victoria was unable to speak of the trauma she had suffered, but after trauma therapy she is gradually healing.

His hope is that through education and therapy "together we hope to break the cycles of war and hate and most importantly build the bridges of love and peace."