The government of Nigeria has been getting pressure to take action on the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls by an Islamist group last month.
Rallies have been held throughout the world to call on Nigerian authorities to return the girls to their families, and a social media campaign using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has raised awareness of their plight.
As this campaign got underway, Secretary of State John Kerry called on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to take more action to rescue more the girls, abducted on April 14 from a school in the country’s rural northwest.
On May 3, rallies were held in London and in several U.S. cities including New York and Oakland, California.
The hundreds of girls disappeared when members Islamist insurgency Boko Haram took the girls captive while they were sleeping in dormitories at a school.
Parents have been searching for the girls in remote areas since that time and there has been no sign of them.
Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful” and there has been speculation that one of the main reasons the girls were kidnapped is because they were in school.
A group called What About our Daughters, has been monitoring the event and says there have been reports from the region that indicate the girls are being sold as child brides to other terrorists groups for as little as 12 dollars per girl.
Human Rights group Jubilee Campaign USA, which spotlights threats against religious minorities, says an estimated 276 school girls have been abducted by Boko Haram, following a declaration by the militants that they would abduct the girls.
“Although the evil perpetrated by Boko Haram has been disheartening, the joining together of thousands in rallies within Nigeria as well as around the world seeking the return of these daughters of Nigeria is heartening,” said Anne Buwalda, executive director of Jubilee Campaign USA. “Despite this moment of unimaginable pain and suffering that these girls and other victims of Boko Haram are facing we can stand with them and call on the Nigerian government to intensify efforts to find them and return them to their families.”
The British newspaper The Guardian is quoting the leader of Boko Haram as saying that the girls taken from their schools are “slaves” that he plans to sell in the market.
In a video seen by the newspaper, Boko Haram’s leader Abubaker Shekau stated “I abducted your girls … I will sell them in the market, by Allah.” He also stated in the video that “He will marry them [the girls] off.
In the video Shekau spoke in northern Nigeria’s Hausa language for almost an hour. Threatening further attacks on schools, Shekau warned the international community not to get involved in Nigeria. He also reiterated his claim that western education is a “plot against Islam” and urged Boko Haram and its allies to kill students and teachers.
Faith McDonnell is the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Director. She is taking part in the demonstration in Washington on Tuesday, May 6.
The IRD is a founding member of the Nigeria Task Force that worked for three years to have Boko Haram designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the State Department.
McDonnell says the abductions are part of Boko Haram’s overall agenda of eradicating the Christian presence in Nigeria and building a pure Islamic state. She says this past March; the leader of Boko Haram declared that he would soon start abducting the “infidel” women and girls, as it is in keeping with Shari’a (Islamic law) and selling them as slaves.
“We can pray and hope that Boko Haram’s actions have indeed gone over the edge, and that the whole world is disgusted with them. But for years the Islamists in Sudan abducted Christian women and girls with hardly any protest from the world community. It is just good that this was done so brazenly in the open. It may make the difference” she added.
She adds: “But what is even more important is that Christians around the world, particularly in the United States have a duty and responsibility to their fellow Christians who are being persecuted. Right now there are thousands of American Anglicans who have a place to worship because of the Anglican Church in Nigeria. What are they doing to show their appreciation to the Nigerian Church? Are they speaking out and doing advocacy for he persecuted Christians in Nigeria?”