By Troy Augustine
04/14/2015 Washington DC (International Christian Concern) – Today is the anniversary of Boko Haram (BH) kidnapping 276 young girls from Chibok in northern Nigeria. On the night of April 14, 2014, Islamist militants from BH stormed the Chibok Government Secondary School and kidnapped scores of mostly Christian teenage girls. Subsequently, BH released a statement saying that they would sell the girls off as slaves into a lifetime of forced marriage and sexual servitude. We urge all of those concerned to remember and pray for the 219 that remain in captivity.
BH is an extremist Islamic group that is notorious for killing Christians who refuse to deny their faith. They have waged years of terror in northern Nigeria, abducting young girls, coercing conversions at gunpoint, attacking minorities, and raping women, with the expressed mission to establish an Islamic state in Africa.
The Chibok incident quickly drew global attention and went viral on social media. By early May 2014, “Bring Back Our Girls,” was tweeted more than 480,000 times, according to the Daily Mail. Even First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on television calling for the girls’ release. “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters …we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now,” she said.
Parents of the missing girls have lived in misery for the past year as they continue to search for answers. Chibok community leader Dr. Pogu Bitrus reported in July 2014, only 100 days after the kidnapping, that, “(As far as I know, at least) three parents have died from related heart attacks resulting from the shock they have sustained from which they never recovered. Then four others were killed in subsequent Boko Haram attacks in the area making a total of number of at least seven. Others are in very serious need of medical and psychological help.” By February 2015, the number of parents who have died reportedly rose to 13.
Since the raid, dozens of girls have escaped, but the whereabouts and condition of the missing hundreds remain a mystery. Survivors have reported remarkably consistent testimonies of being beaten into denying their Christian faith, facing threats to be sold into marriage to single Boko Haram fighters, and having limbs broken if they were caught trying to escape.
One year later, the challenge of finding all of the girls and returning them safely home is enormous and hope is beginning to fade. Many may have already been forced to marry their captors. Furthermore, military incursions into BH strongholds to liberate villages have left insurgents scattered and retreating from towns they once held. No signs of the girls have turned up.
In late March, BH escapee Mbutu Papka reported that the girls were being held in a BH compound in Gwoza, Borno State. “In the camp at Gwoza, there were clear demarcations between where people were kept. The Chibok girls, other captives, and Boko Haram members and their family members all had their separate areas… The security in the area where the girls are kept is visibly different and much tighter,” she said.
Many wonder if the girls are even alive. During the Nigerian military’s siege of Bama in Borno State, sources said that BH fighters murdered their wives. “They killed their wives so that the women would not get remarried to unbelievers if their husbands die in the fierce battles with Nigerian soldiers,” one witness said. In addition, insurgents reportedly used women as human shields, and massacred dozens of people in Bama whose bodies have yet to be identified.
Still, no one has been able to positively identify any bodies as any of the missing Chibok girls. If they are still alive, they will certainly continue to face physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. For Christian girls, the threat of abuse is significantly heightened because of their faith.
International Christian Concern’s Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa said, “One cannot imagine the unspeakable horrors that these young girls from Chibok have had to endure at the hands of Boko Haram. The stories of survivors tell a grim, but real, tale of torture and perseverance. Marking the anniversary of such an atrocity is the sad reality of persecution in Africa. Please pray for the survival and quick release of these girls who have had to go through unimaginable brutality.”