NIGERIA — A Christian man in Nigeria recently stood firm for his faith despite Muslim attempts to force him to convert to Islam by threatening him with death.
As previously reported, the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram has been attacking the Gwoza area for several years, with violence intensifying throughout 2014. In June, South Africa Today reported that the death toll in Borno State was estimated at being between 400 to 500 residents, but that an exact tally could not be calculated.
“The killings are massive, but nobody can give a toll for now because nobody has been able to go to that place because the insurgents are still there,” lawmaker Peter Biye stated. “They have taken over the whole area.”
Last month, a number of Christians fled Gwoza and the surrounding villages as Boko Haram attacked neighborhoods with explosive devices, fire bombs and assault rifles. Approximately 100 people lost their lives in the attack.
Among those who fled was John Yakuba, who lives with his family in the predominately Christian village of Attagara in Northeast Nigeria. According to the organization Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Yakuba fled to a refugee camp in Cameroon, but when it seemed that his family faced starvation there, he returned to the village to see if he could retrieve some of his livestock. He planned on selling the livestock so that he could have funds to feed his family.
However, when members of Boko Haram spotted Yakuba entering his house to gather a few other belongings left behind, they captured him and attempted to force him to become a Muslim.
“You must convert to Islam or else you will die a painful death,” they threatened.
Yakuba refused and was tied to a tree as Islamic insurgents then began slashing his hands with a knife.
“Can you become a Muslim now?” they asked.
“You can kill my body, but not my soul,” Yakuba replied.
Members of Boko Haram continued to torture Yakuba, using both the knife and a machete to cut his back and feet, asking him again if he would convert and follow Allah. He refused.
“We will show you,” the Islamists said.
They slashed his head and struck his knee with an axe. Yakuba soon lost consciousness. He was left for dead.
Miraculously, when someone spotted Yakuba tied to the tree three days later, he was still alive, although in a coma. He was transported to an area hospital, where he eventually regained consciousness.
A VOM representative met Yakuba in the hospital, and asked him how he felt about those who had attacked him.
“I have forgiven the Islamic militants because they did not know what they are doing,” he said.
An estimated 300,000 Christians are said to have been displaced due to the violence in the Gwoza area, many of whom—like Yakuba—escaped to Cameroon.