Opening her Doors to those Displaced by Violence in Northern Nigeria

Titi Malik (third from left) with members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria and LWF delegation during a solidarity visit in March. Photo: Jfaden Multimedia
Titi Malik (third from left) with members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria and LWF delegation during a solidarity visit in March. Photo: Jfaden Multimedia

“They Needed Assistance”

(LWI) – Lutheran activist Titi Malik, who sheltered dozens of internally displaced persons fleeing violent Boko Haram Islamists in northern Nigeria, says the men, women and children faced a horrifying experience.

Speaking to Lutheran World Information (LWI), Malik, who is a member of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Council, sheltered 20 refugees in her own home and 50 more on a plot near her house for four months beginning in October 2014.

The women and children lived in her home and the men and young boys stayed on the nearby property. They created a common kitchen. They told Malik their frightening stories of fleeing Boko Haram.

Among those who fled the violence were her aunts and uncles, she said in an interview. “They found themselves in a situation that was very difficult and I had to open my doors to them so they could have a break. They had walked a long distance. I felt, this is a time they need assistance.”

When the shooting started and the bombs hit their hometown the people were unsure which way to flee. Many lost their lives, including the elderly and infants, and those who survived couldn’t even stop to bury the dead. They covered them with branches and fled.

“They walked long distances, pulling their carts but they had to abandon them. Most elderly people couldn’t make it. They died on the way. The children were terrified. When they heard aircraft they would run into the road because they thought something terrible was going to happen,” said Malik.

The Lutheran leader talked about one woman in particular who had with her an infant and several other children, who said after the horrific experience of fleeing the Boko Haram violence that she would never have another child because she knew something would happen to them.

Malik said some of the Boko Haram insurgents, who have terrorized northern Nigeria for six years, were neighbors of those fleeing. It is estimated that 10,000 people lost their lives to Boko Haram violence last year, and the Islamist group has vowed to disrupt the 28 March Nigerian elections.

The United Nations estimate that more than 1.5 million Nigerians have been forcibly displaced within the country. In addition, some 74,000 Nigerians have fled to Cameroon, while another 100,000 have taken shelter in Chad and Niger, according to the United Nations. The UN has said that international assistance is needed for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled their homes.

Malik said the local church has been praying for the refugees and asking them not to lose hope despite the horrific situation. She said the LWF has offered solidarity to Nigerians and the local church from the beginning of the insurgency. “That has helped a lot.”