Cameron Thomas, Regional Manager for Africa
International Christian Concern
It's been 100 days since more than 300 predominantly Christian schoolgirls, lodged in the backs of military-grade trucks, were ferried off in what has become a global nightmare. The following morning, pierced by the wails of devastated mothers, the world was forced to acknowledge an evil it thought able to be relegated to the depths of the African rain forest. On a scale that had not yet been seen, displaying a capacity to inflict terror that had not yet been appreciated, Boko Haram committed the unconscionable crime that will ultimately see to its end: the mass-abduction of Nigeria's Chibok girls. Much has passed in the months since the April 14 raid on the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, a small village in northeast Nigeria's Borno State. From the building of an international coalition for the girls' location, release and safe return, to the deployment of U.S. law enforcement and military personnel, to accusations of government incompetence, and worse still, corruption playing a role in the girls uninterrupted captivity.
Protests in cities and capitals around the world have voiced outrage over not just Boko Haram's heinous act, but the Nigerian government's inability thus far to return those abducted to their families, friends and community. For weeks, social media platforms were dominated by the hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls. The demand that our girls-the Chibok girls-be returned manifested itself in handwritten notes photographed by thousands, from famed Nigerian athletes to First Lady Michelle Obama, in protest selfies plastered to Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds.
Political pundits and human rights activists alike began a smear campaign against what they termed "slacktivism," or slack-activism, arguing that tweeting didn't equate helping. The backlash opened the doors for widespread accusations of using the girls' plight for political expedient purposes. Neo-anti colonialists added their voice to the ring, blasting non-Nigerian nationals for intentionally (or otherwise) advocating an expansion of U.S. and other military operations across the African continent on the basis of humanitarianism.
And in response to all this international fervor, the Jonathan administration has called for greater international support, hired a U.S.-based public relations firm to brighten the governing party's image in the less-than-favorable spotlight, and even placed a billion dollar loan request before its National Assembly to better equip the Nigerian military in its fight against terrorism.
And so, while more than 240 predominantly Christian schoolgirls wait-deep in the Sambisa forest-to be rescued from being forcefully converted to Islam and sold into sexual slavery, the international spotlight has shifted from these poor girls' plight to debates over governmental response, "slacktivism," and the colonial nature of intervention.
On the 100th day of their captivity, the focus needs to be returned to the Chibok girls, their families, and the persecutory motive behind their deplorable abduction, forceful conversion, and sale-at Allah's instruction-"on the market" into lifetimes of domestic abuse and rape.
Their lamps lit, books open, and pencils left dulled by the unfinished sentences of incomplete exams, more than 300 girls found themselves assembled in their school's courtyard on the night of April 14. What just hours ago had been a place reserved for reading under the African sun, playing games, and even disseminating the latest gossip between classes, was now a sorting ground, where-lined up before their captors-abductees were handpicked, one-by-one.
The midnight excursion, which lasted about as long as the four-hour raid and selection process, drew the girls deeper and deeper into a forest they had always feared. The Sambisa has always a held mystique over its human neighbors, who for centuries have passed down oral legacies, mythical in nature, of the deep and brooding powers of the darkness beyond the trees. And while the myths may still be legend, each of the girls tucked into the backs of those trucks that night would become well-acquainted with the darkness of which their ancestors had warned.
Unloaded from the trucks, likely into a number of separate camps, the girls have since been subjected to the elements, left prey to predators and disease, and constantly watched over by the flinted eyes of militants steeled by the barrels of their AK-47s, rusting in the jungle's humidity. Privacy no longer a privilege, freedom but a distant memory, the girls waited days, then weeks, and now months for their rescue.
They've watched friends be sold as child brides for as little $12 USD, been filmed while begging their president for his support, and forced to recite scriptures not their own while wearing the traditional dress of a religion to which they do not subscribe. They've seen their captors flee the forest, driven mad by the drum of the frogs' deep-throated croaks, the cacophony of the baboons' distant cries, and constant buzz of critters and flies. They've served as the backdrop to terror propaganda videos and shaped in absentia an impending Nigerian election. They've set the tone for international human rights rhetoric and been inducted into the written record of global governance.
And yet, they haven't been rescued. And their majority Christian faith hasn't been recognized as the motivation for their capture. Despite more than 90 percent of the identified abductees having professed Christianity, the claimed cause for their abduction has been their educational pursuit or gender. And while the fact that they've been torn from their studies and subjected to domestic and sexual slavery should be condemned totally, the fact that they were systematically targeted for their faith should be condemned as well.
The global bodies of believers need to be made aware this day, their 100th day of captivity, that these are sisters in Christ who are languishing for their Savior, and who need the international Church to stand up, speak out and demand their immediate and unconditional release and return.
For interviews, contact Cameron Thomas, Regional Manager for Africa: RM-Africa@persecution.org
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