Nigeria (MNN) — Weekend events brought renewed hope to the parents of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped in April 2014. Yesterday, parents anxiously awaited to see if their daughters were among the latest group of girls released by the militant group, Boko Haram. Kristin Wright of Open Doors USA says they are cautiously celebrating as they wait for their teams on the ground to verify reports.
She says, “The initial news is that 82 of Nigeria’s kidnapped Chibok girls have been freed by Boko Haram in exchange for militants that the government then released back to that militant group.”
This group of girls were part of the nearly 300 girls kidnapped three years ago. Their release follows that of 24 more girls last year.
(Photo courtesy of Open Doors International via World Watch Monitor)
Wright visited with families in the Chibok community in 2015. Open Doors USA has been supporting these families with encouragement and advocacy for their cause. Wright says it’s more than the school girls who have had a brush with the terrorist organization.
“I also met with many, many girls and women who had faced a similar experience of being kidnapped and held in captivity by Boko Haram,” she says.
Boko Haram continues to be active in this part of the world. Amnesty International has recorded 41 mass kidnappings like the Chibok case since early 2014.
Wright says, “The problem is much larger than a lot of people realize, and for all of these girls, they’re facing typically rape, forced marriage to a Boko Haram militant, abuse of all kinds, [and] beatings.”
(Representative photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)
She continues, “In addition to this, many captives reported that they had experienced being forced to convert.”
The release of these girls is no doubt exciting news, something to celebrate. However, there is much to be addressed.
“These girls have a long road of healing ahead of them. And so, I think that it’s really crucial to be remembering them, remembering their families, and remembering them in our prayers right now,” Wright says.
Addressing a big problem
Boko Haram clearly has little regard for the value of human life. But, they also receive very little attention on the global stage. It seems that with less attention, there is also less resistance to their activity. However, this group rivals and even once surpassed ISIS as the deadliest terrorist organization.
Wright says, “And yet, in spite of the mass number of deaths, in spite of the mass number of captives, people still don’t hear that much about Boko Haram.”
Nigeria, she points out, is number 12 on the Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the top countries where it’s hardest to live as a Christian.
“In Nigeria, it continues to be a volatile situation for believers, and I think that a part of the responsibility and role for Christians to play is to raise awareness and raise understanding of the situation facing their brothers and sisters in Nigeria.”
To this end, Open Doors has recently started a campaign to raise support for these believers.
The spiritual battle in Nigeria
The physical destruction this group leaves behind is obvious. But the stories of forced conversions are a reminder. We cannot ignore the spiritual battle that is also taking place in Nigeria.
(Representative image courtesy of Open Doors USA)
Wright says it was hard to avoid that aspect when she was visiting the families and talking to the women and girls who had been kidnapped in the past.
“There is definitely a spiritual battle at work, and you can see evidence of that. I was really encouraged and inspired attending church services in Nigeria because of the pure joy and commitment of the Christians that I met who, in spite of serious persecution, continue to have gratitude in their hearts, continue to praise God and to meet together.”
With this in mind, we can be praying. First, Wright says, pray for peace for the families waiting to be reunited with their daughters. Pray also for those girls who are still in captivity, and the thousands more who have been abducted by Boko Haram.
If you’d like to join Open Doors campaign to raise support for Nigerian Christians, click here.
Additionally, Open Doors has started a petition to President Trump, asking him to appoint an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom in the State Department. To sign that petition, click here.