Extract from Gertrude Yema Jusufu, “My Story: Hoping for a Path that Leads to Life” in Shared Visions:
Finally, I returned to Sierra Leone. At that point, I left religious life.
The war was still raging. All the neighbors came flooding to us for help. There was no food, no water, babies were crying—then a bomb fell in our compound. We picked up our things and ran to my father’s home. When the battle came closer, we ran to the mosque for safety—safety that didn’t exist. Many women were raped and killed on the spot. Pregnant women who were about to deliver would go into the bush to have their babies. Sometimes, rebels would slit open the mother’s stomach, remove the fetus, and kill it; they would drink the blood as part of a ritual to make themselves stronger for battle.
After the third attack on the mosque, I was separated from my father and stayed at the pastoral center in Kenema, where we experienced the fourth attack. Bishop O’Riordan, the spiritual director there, was shot in the leg. We crossed the river in a small boat. When we looked back, we could see that the secondary school had been set on fire.
I met a nurse from Germany who was treating the wounded with jelly water, papaya leaves, and papaya seeds. With the assistance of the Catholic community, I helped to feed thousands of people out of what seemed like nothing, and when it was all over, I had nothing left.