“We must find the cure to heal this plague and not leave women alone,” the pope said.
After escaping the Boko Haram, Joseph and Marcus both received treatment at the Trauma Center of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria, a center built with the assistance of ACN.
Their stories are detailed in the report “Nigeria: A Bleeding Wound,” which shares firsthand testimonies of Catholics who have survived torture, kidnappings, and massacres at the hands of Nigerian terrorists.
Maryamu Joseph with Pope Francis at the general audience on March 8, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
“Nine years of living in bondage! Nine years of torture! Nine years of agony! We suffered so much at the hands of these heartless, ruthless people. For nine years we saw the shedding of the innocent blood of my fellow Christians, killed by people who do not value life. They murdered without remorse, like it’s a normal thing to do,” Joseph said of her time in captivity.
At the age of 7, she was abducted along with 21 others when the Boko Haram attacked her village.
“They put the Christians in cages, like animals. The first thing they did was forcefully convert us to Islam. They changed my name to Aisha, a Muslim name, and warned us not to pray as Christians or we would be killed,” Joseph said.
Marcus, 22, was forced to flee Boko Haram with her family twice before the terrorists attacked them again in the city of Maiduguri. In this attack, Marcus’ father was told to either rape her or be killed.
“With a machete pointed at my father’s forehead, he looked at my mother and at me, but I avoided eye contact because I was ashamed to look him in the face, ashamed of what the men had suggested — it was an abomination!” Marcus told ACN. “My father put his head down in submission to be killed and answered: ‘I cannot sleep with my own flesh and blood, my own daughter, I would rather die than commit this abomination.’”
Her father was beheaded, and Marcus continued to suffer at the hands of the Islamic terrorists.