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Christian Girl in Nigeria Has Muslim Man Forced on Her

Unyielding 16-year-old girl escapes would-be husband and sharia court.

by Obed Minchakpu

BAUCHI, Nigeria, April 4 (Compass Direct) – “If you are forcing me to marry a man who is a Muslim simply because of my decision to become a Christian, then I will rather have you kill me than accept to marry this man.”

These were the bitter words of Jamila Noma, now 16, to her father, Malam Noma, in an Islamic court two years ago in Jimeri village in Bauchi State of northern Nigeria .

The girl had been arrested by the police and brought before an Islamic court on the orders of her father when she became a Christian and rejected his decision to marry her off to Muslim man.

These two years have left her in an uncertain situation. The court has not decided the case, she has been disowned by her father and he has forced her out of the family home. She is staying with her lawyer, Suleiman Wurno.

Noma said that her father is a pagan, with a family made up of six wives and 16 children. She is the last of six children of her mother.

Noma first desired to become a Christian two years ago, after hearing the gospel preached in her village church. “The pastor in the church had preached to us repeatedly,” she recalled. “I knew that I was a sinner and decided that I wanted to become a Christian.”

Noma knew it would be difficult, though, as two of her brothers had faced hardship from their father when they decided to become Christians.

“Yohanna, one of my brothers, faced difficulties too when he became a Christian – he was disowned by our dad and sent out of the family home,” she said.

Her opportunity to make a decision came when she went to visit her maternal uncle, “Pastor Idi,” she recalled. “My uncle shared the gospel with me, and I knew that that was the moment I was waiting for, the moment to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior, and so, I prayed to receive Christ,” she said.

Attempted Rape

That was in 2004. When she returned to her Jimeri village, her active participation in church activities angered her father. “My dad became angry that I was now a Christian – he would always threaten and beat me up,” she said.

Noma dropped out of elementary school, as her father in his anger did not want her to go to school.

“One day, my dad summoned the family and announced that since I had disobeyed him and become a Christian, he could not accept me staying in the same house with him,” she said. “He said the only way he could solve this problem was for him to marry me off.”

A Muslim man was brought to the house and took her by force to his home. “I was confused as I was in this man’s house,” Noma said tearfully. “He attempted several times to rape me, but I resisted it.”

Praying about these rape attempts, she found courage to continue to ward him off, she said. One day she escaped to the home of her aunt, Murna Noma, in Nabardo town.

Humiliated, her father reported her escape to police. She was arrested and charged before an Islamic court. While in court, she was ordered to recant her Christian faith and return to the Muslim man’s house as a wife.

In this court the bitter exchange of words between father and daughter took place. Noma rejected the decision of the court.

“It was there that I told my dad that, while I respected him as a father, he should allow me to follow the faith of my choice,” she said. Her father disowned her then and there, vowing never to allow her back into his house.

Escaping from the court, she ran to her maternal uncle’s village, Tsaka Dangiwa, and he took her to the lawyer, Wurno. For two years Wurno has offered her shelter while trying legal means to stop her from being prosecuted. He also has enrolled her in vocational training to become a tailor.

Misapplied Sharia

The introduction of Islamic law (sharia) in Bauchi state in 2001 has left Christian girls increasingly subject to such ordeals.

Wurno noted that the law says only Muslims are supposed to be subject to sharia courts, but in practice Christians have also been forced under their laws.

Wurno confirmed details of Noma’s story. “Noma converted from paganism to Christianity. Her father, who is a pagan, decided to marry her out to a Muslim. She refused and it resulted in a serious problem.”

Wurno has been threatened by Muslim extremists, who have invaded his house several times because he has taken custody of the teenager, he said.

The status of her case is uncertain, he said. “We do not know how to handle this case. Her dad is still insisting that she must return to the house of this Muslim man as a wife.”

Noma insisted that, in spite of her father’s opposition to her becoming a Christian, she would not recant. “In spite of dad’s refusal to see reason and allow me to remain a Christian, I will not change my faith,” she said. “The truth is that my dad does not listen to anyone. Despite all appeals from many people, he has refused to change his decision on me.”

In fact, she added, most members of her family want to become Christians but he has become an obstacle to them.

“I have no problem being a Christian,” she concluded. “The Lord led me this way, and I believe that what has happened to me is within His will for me.”