This morning, the second anniversary of the kidnapping of the 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram, I read reports of girls they’ve taken being abducted, enslaved abused, drugged, and used as suicide bombers. I cried thinking that while I was going through a typical day, there were women in physical and emotional pain fighting for their lives and sanity.
I can’t imagine the hell these girls are going through, but even the few stories I heard brought me to tears. These girls need our help, and if it takes a village to raise a child it will take the whole world to save the most vulnerable ones.
Boko Haram is the terrorist group responsible for these atrocities. They operate in northeastern Nigeria and seek the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria and follow a strict teaching of the religion. They believe western education and influence is a sin. In fact, Boko Haram roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden”. Since 2009, the group has killed 20,000 and displaced 2.3 million from their homes. Boko Haram is ranked as the world’s deadliest terror group by the Global Terrorism Index.
They became known around the world after the Chibok kidnapping and the campaign to raise awareness and #BringBackOurGirls. Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, pledged to bring them home. Of those girls, several managed to escape, but 219 are still missing. The last time the girls were seen publicly was in a May 2014 video released by Boko Haram, another video surfaced today and shows some of the girls still alive.
But these are not the only girls Boko Haram has kidnapped. Hundreds, maybe thousands, more have been held in slavery by the group and others have escaped or been rescued.
“When you are with them, there is a constant fear that they can kill you. Or maybe the bombs or stray bullets from the [government] soldiers can also kill you. It was just terrible.”
From the escaped girls, we have learned there is extensive sexual abuse, forced religious conversions and marriages, and many are forced to commit acts of violence. Even after escape they still have to face a community that ostracizes them or urges them to keep quiet about what they have endured. Many of the women who come back are pregnant and face substandard mental and physical health support.
These women need help. They have faced so much pain and death, my heart hurts just thinking about it. Here in America, it can be easy to forget that there is a big world out there beyond our borders. It can be easy to forget that there is great suffering and tragedy happening every day that many here could never imagine. I want to do my best to remember those girls and to share their stories when I see them.
I don’t know what else I can do right now, except hold them in my heart and thoughts.
Maybe we can all start there.
I will just pray for them that one day there is hope, that one day God will set them free from the hands of Boko Haram.