In a gripping tale of faith and survival amidst unspeakable persecution, a young Nigerian woman tells how she secretly prayed the Rosary while being raped and forced into marriage by Islamic terrorists.
The National Catholic Register is reporting on the harrowing story of a devout Catholic, Rebecca Bitrus, who was taken prisoner by the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, two years ago. Her abduction occurred during the evening of August 2014 when militants raided the small village where she lived with her husband and two young sons, Joshua, 3, and Zacharia, 5. Although she tried to escape, both herself and her two young sons were captured.
Pregnant at the time with her third child, she and the children were taken to a camp deep in the woods. Given the name “Miriam,” she was put to work in a labor camp where the strain caused her to miscarry.
The terrorists demanded that she convert to Islam. When she refused, they grabbed her youngest son, Joshua, and threw him into the river where he drowned.
After losing her little boy, she said that she “went through the motions” of becoming Muslim but never converted. Each time she was forced to recite Muslim prayers, she would pray the Rosary instead and ask God to free her “from the hands of this wicked people.”
“I was never convinced about Islam. I kept my trust in the Lord, and I was praying the Rosary with my fingers,” she said. “I am convinced that the prayer of the Rosary saved me from captivity.”
She was eventually forced to marry a Boko Haram fighter and subjected to repeated rape. She became pregnant and gave birth to a child on Christmas Day who she named Christopher, in honor of the Savior she refused to renounce.
It was only when Nigerian troops began to close in on the camp that she was able to escape. Ironically, the troops didn’t believe she was Christian at first and thought she was a member of Boko Haram. It was not until she recited the Hail Mary and Glory Be that they believed her and brought her back to safety.
Bitrus was reunited with her husband in their hometown of Maidurguri but she was in need of much healing. Not only did she lose one son, but her youngest child was six months old and she was still trying to accept him.
However, the local bishop, Oliver Dashe Doeme, encouraged her to “accept and love” the child because he could grow up to be “an important person in life, a person who could help me,” Bitrus said.
Bishop Doeme is the same prelate who had a vision of Jesus in 2014 while praying in a chapel for the defeat of the murderous Boko Haram group. Jesus handed him a sword and when he touched it, it turned into a Rosary. The bishop began to encourage recitation of the Rosary throughout Nigeria, a plea that was eventually communicated to the whole world. Although the group is still active, it has been greatly diminished since that vision.
Bitrus was eventually able to forgive Boko Haram for everything that they did to her. She found the strength to do so while remembering how cruelly and unjustly Jesus was treated, but was still able to forgive his murderers from the cross.
Although most of us will never have to endure the atrocities that Bitrus will live with for the rest of her life, we all have access to the prayer that enabled her to endure what most of us dare not even imagine.
“Clearly, at this moment in the history of man, the Rosary belongs in the hands of every man, woman, and child,” writes Johnnette Benkovic and Thomas K. Sullivan in their book, The Rosary: Your Weapon for Spiritual Warfare.
“God has chosen us for this time and this time is for us. Everything about our day and age – all of our personal struggles and difficulties as well as the challenges we face in the world – God uses as instruments to lead us to purification and sanctification,” they write.
It is through this purification that we are perfected and become conduits of the saving power of Jesus Christ.
Just as Bitrus did in the jungles of Nigeria, “In faith, let us ask for the strength, the grace, and the wisdom to engage the spiritual battle using heaven’s weapon of choice – the Rosary!”
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