Nigerian Boko Haram Escapees Share Ordeal With Pope Francis

Picture of Pope Francis

The Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis marked the 2023 International Women’s Day by meeting with two Nigerian women who had been held captive by Boko Haram militants. The women, who had endured years of violence before escaping were brought to the Vatican by a non-governmental organization to meet with the Pope.

The women explained how Boko Haram had tried to force them to marry members of the group. 22-year-old Jarada Marcus had been kidnapped and released several times, while 19-year-old Mariamu Joseph spent around nine years in captivity before escaping in 2022. One of Mariamu’s siblings was killed, while another is still held captive. She said the extremists held her in a cage for months with little food.

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Both women briefly met with journalists on Tuesday, emotionally recalling their past traumatic experiences. They both expressed hope for a better future but remain concerned about those still held captive or displaced by the conflict.

Jarada found sanctuary at a Catholic association’s center in northeastern Nigeria after extremists killed her father in her presence. Mariamu managed to escape from captivity in 2022. They both now hope to have a better future, while still thinking of those still held captive or forcefully displaced from their homes due to the group’s attacks.

Boko Haram, a militant rebel group that launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009, has killed at least 35,000 people and displaced 2.1 million. Nigerian security forces claim to have defeated the group, but attacks on remote communities still occur. Thousands are believed to be held captive by the group, The conflict has spilled over to Nigeria’s neighbours, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad.

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