By Carl and Roxane Hill
On April 14, 2014, 276 schoolgirls were abducted from a secondary school in Chibok, in northeast Nigeria. Since the night the girls were taken some 56 have escaped and one reportedly was executed in a vicious stoning incident. That leaves 219 of the girls unaccounted for and, at last report, no one has any concrete information concerning their whereabouts.
It is suspected that these girls are being kept as bargaining chips by their captors, the radical insurgent group Boko Haram. Over the last couple of years, Boko Haram has taken thousands of others captive. But the abduction of these schoolgirls from Chibok rocked the international community and brought world-wide attention to events in Nigeria’s northeast.
As ghastly details have been made public about the Nigerian terrorist group, the reported numbers that have been killed have exceeded all other unstable areas of the world. In 2015, according to the Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram was labeled the world’s deadliest terror organization.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the Chibok abductions, there are no reliable updates available. What we do know is that the parents of these girls have suffered tremendously. The anguish they have experienced is due to the fact that they do not know where their daughters are or what has happened to them.
For some of these parents, the stress on them has been too much to bear. It has been reported to us by Rebecca Dali that some of these parents have died because of a combination of stress and poor health issues. Dr. Dali, who is a leading member of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) and heads up the humanitarian nonprofit group CCEPI that serves widows and orphans and others affected by the violence, has made repeated trips to Chibok. She has traveled through dangerous territory to bring relief materials and encouragement to these parents. The parents have been very grateful for the help. Unfortunately, they can do nothing but worry about the safety of the girls and pray for their delivery.
Chibok once hosted a small mission station for Church of the Brethren missionaries. The mission station was founded in 1941. The school was established by the Brethren around 1947 in an attempt to bring education to this remote area. In 1950, another school to train pastors was started in Chibok. As the Brethren mission presence in Chibok came to a close in the mid-1970s the school was handed over to the Nigerian government. It was this school that Boko Haram insurgents raided and from which they carried off the 276 girls two years ago.
The interest this dastardly deed attracted is still strong today. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign includes Hollywood celebrities and even first lady Michelle Obama. The Church of the Brethren is continuing to stand up for these girls and many churches have adopted one of the girls to pray for each week.
Shortly after the abductions the Nigerian Brethren informed the Church of the Brethren that the majority of the schoolgirls were from EYN families. In May 2014, each Church of the Brethren congregation received a letter asking for prayer for the abducted girls–both Christian and Muslim. The letter included an enclosure with the names of 180 of the abducted girls. Each name on the list was assigned to six congregations for focused prayer.
While attending this year’s Majalisa or annual meeting of EYN, Global Mission and Service executive Jay Wittmeyer plans to consult with EYN staff about the Chibok girls. He hopes to attempt to sift through the list of the names that was sent to the American Brethren, in order to find out more about what may be known of them.
As we continue to remember the Chibok girls, we hold out hope for their safety and look forward to the day when we can learn more about what has happened to them. Until then, we know that these girls and their parents are in God’s hands. Our prayer continues to be that God will deliver them and that one day soon they will be reunited with their loved ones.
For more information, see an interview from one of the escaped girls in the March 31, 2015, issue of Newsline at www.brethren.org/news/2015/interview-with-chibok-schoolgirl-who-escaped.html .
— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response, a joint effort of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .