Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Persecuted Nigerian woman forgives terrorists who killed her father

May 17, 2024 by Chandler Peterson in Persecuted Christians in Nigeria

The day of the attack

In the small Nigerian village of Madagali, Suzanne and her father tended their meager crops under the blazing African sun. They exchanged pleasant greetings as Suzanne prepared the land and her father gathered kindling to burn the cleared brush.

Without warning, militants from the radical Islamic group Boko Haram descended upon them.

“They charged toward us,” Suzanne said. “I begged them fervently, I begged them in the name of God, not to kill my father.”

But the men did not listen. Suzanne watched in horror as the terrorists shot her father repeatedly.

In the shock and trauma of that moment, all Suzanne could do was lament. “I lifted my hands to the sky and yelled, ‘Jesus Christ, we have no one but you! Have mercy on us!’”

The terrorists turned to Suzanne as one of them lifted his gun up to her head. They told her to get her things and come with them. But Suzanne knew that going with Boko Haram would mean having to embrace Islam, enter a forced marriage and risk never seeing her husband and children again.

When she refused, the man holding the gun pulled the trigger. The bullet went in one side of her head, through both eyes and out the other side. She fell to the ground unconscious. 

Believing her to be dead, the men from Boko Haram left her beside her father’s lifeless body. The two lay in the fallow ground they were preparing to sow.

After some time, men and women from their village found the bodies. Shocked and heartbroken, they lifted Suzanne and her father, placed them in a farm cart and took them away to be buried. But Suzanne felt a thorn prick her side and suddenly woke from the pain.

Suzanne, a persecuted Nigerian womanDisoriented and unable to see, Suzanne called out for her son as she started feeling pain from the gunshot wound. The villagers, amazed that she survived such a horrific attack, took Suzanne to a hospital for treatment.

“I’m not dead,” she said. “God saved my life.”

Unfortunately, the doctors were unable to save her eyesight. Today, Suzanne has no vision and is led around the village by her husband or one of her children. But she survived an unimaginable horror–and her faith is a testimony to her resilience and courage that could only come from God.

Persecution of Christians is common in Nigeria

Suzanne’s chilling experience is an increasingly common one in northern Nigeria, where attacks against Christians have intensified in recent years. Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden,” has terrorized Christian communities across the region since the early 2000s. Targeted assaults, kidnappings and church bombings are regular occurrences. These attacks highlight the stark religious divides within Africa’s most populous country.

Records show that more than 5 million Nigerian Christians have been displaced over the last decade. The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law reports that, since 2009, more than 52,000 Christians have been killed and more than 18,000 churches have been attacked or burned to ashes by Boko Haram and other extremists across northern Nigeria.

What’s happening in Nigeria is a silent genocide–and it’s getting worse. More Christians are killed in Nigeria for their faith than in any other country in the world today.

A persecuted Nigerian woman chooses love

The shooting Suzanne endured affected not only her vision, but also her hearing and her memory. Nevertheless, through it all, her Christian identity anchors her. She draws daily strength from Jesus’s words in the Bible: “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” This verse, she said, “establishes a pillar of faith in my heart.”

Even as Suzanne lost her father and very nearly her own life, this persecuted Nigerian woman clings to Christ’s promise of eternal life–not only for herself, but for her persecutors. 

When asked if she has been able to forgive her father’s killers and the man who shot her, she smiled. “In ignorance he committed his actions,” Suzanne said. “Oh God, forgive them.”

This grace and forgiveness stem from Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Suzanne takes this call seriously. If confronted again by militants, she insisted she would welcome them and give them a place to sit and water to drink.

“We’ll eat together and pray,” she said.

This radical, counterintuitive love mystifies many. But for Suzanne, it simply emulates Christ, “who is killed and died for our sins.” Forgiveness amidst egregious suffering makes no earthly sense. Yet Suzanne clings to this gospel paradox and defiantly proclaimed, “My faith is still unwavering.”

Suzanne stands as a daring, remarkable witness. The radiant hope that shone through the tears of this grieving, persecuted woman offers a faint glimpse of a coming day when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Today, our persecuted family in Nigeria needs our prayer and support for critical emergency relief, medical treatment, safe shelter, food aid, discipleship and trauma counseling. Please remember your fellow believers like Suzanne and stand with them in prayer and support so they can remain a light for Christ in their region—even in the face of violence and extremism.

About the author
Chandler Peterson is a staff writer and editor for Global Christian Relief where she shares stories of Christian persecution. Read the latest Christian persecution stories on our website and learn more at

Vulnerable Christians like Suzanne face increasing levels of persecution, not only in Nigeria but all around the globe. Become a Frontline Partner today and your monthly, recurring gift can provide emergency relief and long-term support—plus Bibles, safe shelter, trauma counseling, medical aid, food and more for those in dire need.

Learn more