West & Central Africa

Three years after Chibok abductions, Christian communities still in anguish

 

Three years after Boko Haram terrorists stormed the village of Chibok in Borno State, and captured 276 schoolgirls, families remain in anguish. Over 190 of the girls are still in captivity.

Boko Haram video: Some of the 276 Chibok School girls

Boko Haram, who call themselves, al-Wilāyat al-Islāmiyya Gharb Afrīqiyyah, that is the Islamic State West Africa Province, (ISWAP) and Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād or the Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad, have abducted at least 41 other times since the beginning of 2014 according to Amnesty International.

“Many such abductions go unnoticed and unreported by the media. This has left many parents and relatives without any hope of being reunited with their loved ones,” said Makmid Kamara, Interim Country Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

The anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls coincided with this year’s Good Friday commemoration. Many families of abducted women and children in the northeast, were in churches offering prayers for the release of their daughters and others abducted by the terror group.

A Pastor in Maiduguri, who wants to remain anonymous for his safety, said: “We are Christians, a minority in the north, and at a disadvantage because we have been marginalized and muscled out of politics. We have never deceived ourselves that the Nigerian government will help against Boko Haram. If not for the international community and the pressure from Britain and America, we would have been annihilated by the Islamic terrorist and other Muslims would simply watch and do nothing.”

In an emotional interview with Global Christian News, the pastor sobbed: “We are frustrated. Many of our church members have been killed and hundreds are still in the captivity of Boko Haram. You only hear of Chibok school girls. Thousands were abducted, many have been killed… The government was hopeless. The former President Jonathan did not care that Christian communities were destroyed. It was all politics to him… and now this President Buhari is using us to score cheap political points. Everyone is getting rich out of our tragedies… It hurts. We are Christians. Our hope, especially on a day like this and at this Easter, is Jesus. We have complete faith in Him and if He does not help us, no government can,” he said.

21 girls released by Boko Haram

Three years since the abduction of the Chibok school girls, the Islamic terror group still attacks communities, predominantly vulnerable Christian villages as well as public areas like Internally Displaced People’s Camps and government facilities and security forces.

Makmid Kamara, Amnesty International Nigeria, said, “Boko Haram continues to abduct women, girls and young men who are often then subjected to horrific abuses, including rape, beatings and being forced into suicide bombing missions. Sadly, these appalling abductions and other attacks, some of which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, are carried out by Boko Haram on an almost daily basis… Today we remember and lend solidarity to the families of the Chibok girls as well as the thousands of other women, girls and men abducted, killed or displaced by Boko Haram,” he added.

The Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Maiduguri, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme had called the Boko Haram insurgency “demonic”, and called for the Islamist terror group to be fought on the “spiritual realm” in prayers as the Nigerian army engages them “in the physical”.

“The battle against Boko Haram should not be limited to the physical realm, but it needs to be fought in the spiritual realm for it is a demonic attack,” the Bishop told reporters.

Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has however said, Tuesday evening, that the Nigerian government is still open to negotiations for the release of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls still in captivity.

Chibok, Borno State

Pogu and Yana Galang, whose daughter is still held captive by the terrorist group said, “The government keeps promising us that our daughters would be rescued,” said Yana Galang. “It’s taking longer than we expected, so the pain persists.”

Only 21 of the Chibok girls have been released by Boko Haram in a negotiation by Swiss authorities on a ransom that the government denies has been given. These released girls have been in the custody of the government and have been allowed only a brief visit with their families for reasons the government says was best for the girls and their future and education.

Kashim Shettima, Borno State Governor, in the Northeast, said he had visited the girls who “are absolutely in the best frame of mind to return to school. The focus of the world is on the Chibok girls but there are good reasons. The whole world is concerned as a matter of resistance to the Boko Haram ideology,” he said.

“The Nigerian government is making progress in recapturing territory held by Boko Haram but more needs to be done to prevent further abductions and bomb attacks and provide proper support to all those who have already been rescued or escaped Boko Haram captivity,” Makmid Kamara said.