On 15 April 2014, the Islamic Militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria kidnapped 276 girls. Outrage erupted around the globe as parents, communities and nations screamed out “Bring Back Our Girls”. The hash tag “#bringbackourgirls” has gone viral and it is now an international incident and everyone seems to be getting involved. Boko Haram have taken responsibility for the kidnapping and on 13 May a video was released from the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau. Around 100 of the kidnapped girls are shown in the video and Shekau announced to the world that these girls have been “liberated” and have all become Muslims. Shekau has said that he will never release the girls unless Boko Haram prisoners are released. If the prisoners are not returned the girls will be sold as slaves. In an earlier video, 5 May, Shekau, without showing the girls, claimed, “I have abducted your girls; I will sell them in the market, by Allah; there is a market for selling humans.”
I was in transit between India and New Zealand when the second video was released and I must confess to not taking too much notice of it because I was either sleeping, trying to sleep or trying to nut out a document following meetings I was involved in during the previous week.
I have seen and read a little bit about the kidnapping, but to be honest I haven’t forced it into my conscious brain to think about a serious response from a personal or Stand Against Slavery perspective. I sat with most people around the world and watched it unfold on TV screens or in online news feeds while I continued on with my daily life.
A couple of people, since the April abductions but before the first video, have written to me saying that the reason for the abduction was to sell the girls as slaves. It would be very easy to make that assumption, but it didn’t quite sit right for me at the time, there seemed to be more to it than simply human trafficking. Was it possible? Yes, of course it was possible, but must we immediately assume that these abductions were slavery related? I wanted to see the story unfold before making any accusatory statements.
When we hear of these sorts of things happening in our world I am often paralysed to know what to do. What can I do? How can I help? What’s the most appropriate response? This situation is terrible and I am ill equipped to do anything specifically. Or am I?
By the time you read this article (written 15 May) maybe the incident will have passed. Maybe the Nigerian Government, through local and international pressure, will have released the Boko Haram prisoners and maybe Boko Haram will have released the girls back to their parents. But something doesn’t feel right about this situation. Something tells me that it won’t have ended by mid June and lives may be in danger, even the lives of the abductors. I sense bloodshed and I am worried.
I pray that these girls are not sold into slavery; I pray that they are released back to their families; I pray that justice will prevail; I pray that the abductors and oppressors will be held accountable for this human rights violation.
I pray equally for forgiveness. I pray the parents of the girls will forgive the oppressors; I pray that the girls will forgive their oppressors; I pray the oppressors will say sorry.
I recently saw a movie clip about forgiveness. You can see it at http://bit.ly/canweforgive.
The final sign in the video quotes Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive [them], so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
So what can I do? I can pray!
I can pray God’s sovereignty on this situation; I can ask for the oppressors’ mercy and compassion; I can pray for my lack of prayer and attention; I can pray that I do not sin in the process of seeking retribution; I can pray!
At Stand Against Slavery we say that we are radically biased toward the enslaved and oppressed while encouraging and supporting others and their causes. One of our guiding principles is that we pursue justice from a Christian Worldview. Accordingly, this world issue in Nigeria is important to us and we begin by praying!
I have to go now… I need to go and pray… How about you?