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04/14/16 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) remembers the second anniversary of the now-infamous Boko Haram kidnapping of the Chibok girls on April 14, 2014 with great sadness and fervent prayer.

That night two years ago, gunmen from the militant Islamist terror group stormed a government girls’ boarding school in Chibok Local Government Area (LGA), Borno State, Nigeria. The militants abducted 276 mostly Christian teenage girls and carried them off to a lifetime of untold horrors.

Since the abduction, several of the girls have escaped, but 219 remain missing and at least 14 of the parents have died due to illnesses related to the emotional stress of the trauma. Maina, one of the girls’ uncles told ICC that the community’s grief continues to mount. “I have arrived in Chibok and have been going round houses on condolence visits,” Maina said.

“Only God has strengthened us. It’s not easy. Many of the parents have died, some have become so weak and cannot even move out of their houses,” Pogu told ICC. His daughter Rifkatu is one of the missing 219.

The shock reverberated worldwide from Nigeria, sparking a global social media and advocacy campaign with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which was re-tweeted more than one million times in the first two weeks following the incident.

Boko Haram’s Horrible Reign of Terror

Within a month of the abduction, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau promised to sell the girls as wives for Boko Haram fighters, leading analysts to believe that the girls have been dispersed across the region. While parents pray for their eventual return, two years passing with no news of their whereabouts leaves families holding on to hope that seems to be fading.

Boko Haram, whose name means, “Western education is forbidden,” has become notorious for waging a brutal seven-year insurgency across northeastern Nigeria where they once controlled a swath of territory the size of Belgium. During that stretch, they have inflicted incalculable damage on local populations, Muslim and Christian alike, but have particularly targeted followers of Christ with murder, church destruction, kidnapping, and rape.

The World Bank reported that Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people since 2009, causing 5.9 billion dollars (USD) in damage. Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors reported that the terror group has destroyed more than 13,000 churches.

Targeting Women and Girls

Christian survivors of Boko Haram who were either rescued or escaped their captors all tell similar stories that may reveal the ongoing persecution the Chibok girls are facing. Women report suffering forced conversion to Islam under beatings, serial rape at the hands of dozens of their captors, and some have endured indoctrination toward becoming suicide bombers.

The United Nations agency that cares for suffering children (UNICEF) released a report earlier this week saying that one in five Boko Haram suicide bombers are children, and the BBC reported that the terror group has increased suicide attacks in West Africa by eleven-fold since 2014. Many fear that Boko Haram has used some of the Chibok girls for this dreadful purpose.

A Jos-area university professor told ICC that the Chibok abduction represents how lowly Boko Haram and the pervading majority culture view women. “The fact that the Chibok girls are still at large is a reflection of gross system failure at various levels of Nigerian polity, and a low premium placed on the lives of citizens and particularly female citizens who are systematically devalued,” she said.

Over the past months, joint operations between the military forces of regional partners Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin have recently turned up thousands of captives in rescue missions, according to reports. Sadly, no reports suggest that any of the original Chibok girls are among the numbers rescued.

“God knows everything,” Pogu told ICC. This is the only hope the parents can grip to two years on from last seeing their daughters.

Pogu requested that Christians elsewhere should pray for them that God would heal their hearts, make a way where there seems to be no way, and touch the hearts of the abductors to release their daughters.

“ICC calls for the immediate release of the remaining Chibok girls that Boko Haram keeps captive. The world should listen to Pogu and unite in prayer for their safe return. This episode represents one of the most horrific persecution tragedies to afflict Africa, affecting the girls themselves with horrific tortures, their parents with unimaginable and unending grief, and a nation reeling for their rescue in a war against evil men. Every rescue of a girl or boy, woman or man from Boko Haram captivity represents a great occasion to rejoice, and we continue to hope and pray expectantly for when we might rejoice with the return of the Chibok girls,” ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Troy Augustine, said.