Christian persecution charities have back a new film, which gives raw insight into the violence by Islamic extremists in Nigeria.
The Milkmaid, directed by Desmond Ovbiagele, follows the story of two sisters who endure a harrowing ordeal at the hands of Islamic militants in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ovbiagele said: “The religious extremist insurgency that has raged in northern Nigeria for almost a decade has reduced human lives in the consciousness of the general public to mere statistics, typically nameless and voiceless.
“I felt a strong obligation as a filmmaker to harness the considerable tools available within the medium of cinema to help give a voice to those, living or dead, who are not in a position to speak for themselves”.
He added: “The film portrays the quest of the two sisters to preserve a sense of personal dignity – and even sanity – in the face of formidable opposition.”
The premier of the film comes as Nigerian priest Fr Joseph Akete Bako who was kidnapped in March was confirmed dead this week. Meanwhile, Nigeria's Sokoto state has declared an immediate 24-hour curfew to quell protests demanding the release of suspects in the killing of Deborah Samuel Yakubu last week.
On Thursday, Ms Yakubu was beaten and burned by fellow students for alleged blasphemous statements about the Prophet Mohammad in a Whatsapp group. Two suspects were arrested.
Persecution watchdog Open Doors says Nigerians are facing immense insecurity in their country due to the insurgency of radical Islamists. abductions from Fulani militant and bandits capitalising on the lucrative kidnapping industry.
According to a report by Nigeria-based research firm, SBM Intelligence, between 1st January and 31st March this year, Islamist groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani herdsmen, bandits and violent gangs have killed 1,884 people.
Director of Advocacy at Open Doors UK and Ireland, Dr David Landrum, said: “Nigeria is now having to face up to a powerful triumvirate — some would say, a three-headed monster — as Boko Haram, its breakaway group ISWAP and Fulani militia are evidently acting in cooperation with one another.
“The rise of jihadism in Nigeria and in the surrounding region is dangerous for any person refusing to take on board the insurgents’ radical Islamic agenda.
“This danger threatens a vast number of moderate Muslims but is particularly acute for the Christian presence which jihadists aim to uproot.”
Ayo Adedoyin CEO of Peace-building & Social Justice (PSJ UK) which works to bring peace in Nigeria said: “By showing The Milkmaid to UK decision-makers and policymakers we are hoping for them to gain a much better understanding of the scale and reality of violence that ordinary Nigerians are confronted with.
“In towns and communities across the country - but particularly in the north - people are being abducted by extremist groups capitalising on the nation’s porous borders and culture of impunity which has allowed a boom in the lucrative kidnapping industry.
“A picture speaks a thousand words, but a film can do even more, bringing alive a depiction of the horrifying reality that hundreds - possibly thousands - are faced with.
“Dapchi schoolgirl Leah Sharibu, whose fifth birthday in captivity is on Saturday 14th May, is one of those people but there are many, many more who are suffering, and we don’t even know their names.”
Ovbiagele told Premier Christian News that the he hopes the film will spread awareness of the atrociites happening in Nigeria and that Christian communities will continue to take a stand against the senslelss killings.
“The church should be seeking to stand up for those who are oppressed, those who are very needy, of support and of justice as well because justice needs to be served. We can't sit in our homes, or even in our churches and simply just resort and say, ‘well, we're just going to pray about the situation’.
“Further steps need to be taken, meetings need to be had and people need to be engaged, and all stakeholders in this situation need to be brought together, if possible, facilitated by Christians, wherever necessary or possible so that conversations can be had and solutions can be found.
“It’s a multi-pronged approach and needs to be taken both on the spiritual side as well as on the on the human side and on the social side as well.
“Christians need to be as active as possible, using whatever avenues and access they have at their disposal to affect change.”
In June 2021, the US council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reported that Nigeria had reached a point of no return and had shown all signs of a “fully failed state”, including the inability of the government to protect its citizens, widespread violence and festering insurgency.