Though it has been nine years since her husband was murdered by militant Islamic Fulani herdsmen, every time Alice Bulus hears about a new attack she re-lives the pain of the day he died. “When I hear the sound of a gun, I panic,” Alice said.
Alice and her family were asleep when men with covered faces stormed into their home around midnight on 13 January 2011, in Nigeria’s Plateau state. After calling her husband by name, the men shot him as he opened the bedroom door. Alice, who recognized one of the attackers as a neighbour, tried to stop the bleeding as her husband lay crumpled on the floor and their five terrified children cried in the corner. When the Nigerian military arrived in their village about an hour later, they took Alice’s husband to the hospital. But it was too late; he died on the way to surgery.
Conflicts by Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen have widowed an estimated 10,000 Christian women in northern Nigeria, and these women are often completely disregarded after losing their husband.
This was Alice’s experience as well. She found it difficult to provide for her children as a single parent, but she persisted, staying in the home she had shared with her husband and continuing to farm their plot of land. Then, a year and a half later, Fulani militants struck again.
The Nigerian government dispatched police to help control the violence, but after a policeman was killed they retaliated by burning neighbouring Fulani homes. Then, the enraged Fulani militants burned Alice’s entire village. As she and her children fled on foot, they managed to evade attackers who were blocking the road intending to kill those trying to escape.
Alice and other survivors took shelter in one room of a home in a nearby village, but living conditions were tight. Alice looked for another place to stay, and the only place she could find for her family was the hallway of an elderly woman’s home. They lived there until another Christian family offered them a small studio apartment behind their house.
Alice was overwhelmed by the burden of raising her children on her own. Oblivious to everything around her, she said she spent a lot of time crying, sleeping and waking at odd hours. Then, one day in 2013, she re-assessed her life. “I am not dead yet,” she thought. So she prayed and asked God to give her wisdom.
She began working odd jobs to support her family, making sure to save a 10 percent tithe before buying food, clothes for the children and fertilizer for the farm. Alice replanted her fields and continued to scrape by for two years, until finally meeting some VOM workers who provided monthly living expenses and helped her relocate and rent a simple home. “If not for you,” she told a VOM worker, “either I would have died or I would have abandoned the faith and become an unbeliever.”
Although Alice continued to suffer through many more trials, she could see how God had carried her through each catastrophe. “The Word encourages me all the time because it says the Lord gives and the Lord takes,” she said. “We are just here for a time. Right now, I am no more afraid; I am not afraid because of my God. Anything I ask for, He gives abundantly.”
And even after all she has experienced at the hands of Fulani militants, she doesn’t resent them or want revenge. “Until today, even with the recent crisis that happened, I have never felt anger toward them,” Alice said, “because the Bible already said that this would happen and said we should watch and pray.”
When she saw the Neighbour she had recognized as her husband’s killer, Alice summoned the courage to approach him and greet him kindly. She tries to do the same with any Fulani person she meets. This willful act of love has helped her find peace.