Have you forgotten me? It’s been 170 days. I’m still missing. Imprisoned. Gone. Do you even know my name?
On 14-15 April 2014, Nigerian terrorists kidnapped more than 250 young women from their boarding school in Chibok. Since then, more girls have been taken, men have been murdered and families are traumatised. Over 180 young women remain missing. Today (1st October) marks 170 days of their captivity - 170 days without love from their families; 170 days without freedom of choice.
The Chibok girls.
It’s easy to see them as one monolithic group – faceless and nameless but each woman has her own hopes, dreams and purpose. Each woman has a name – Hauwa, Esther, Yana, Naomi…
Many people would love us to forget them – to label them a lost cause.
170 days on, have we forgotten them?
In many ways, it is unavoidable. Every day, the news brings devastating tragedies to our attention – Gaza, Iraq, Syria, ebola…
A few weeks after their kidnappings, #bringbackourgirls exploded on social media fuelled by celebrity endorsements. Michelle Obama’s tweet on 7 May generated 58,000 retweets. Many argued that using the hashtag was just ‘slacktivism’ – feel-good actions that don’t effect any lasting change apart from making the poster feel better. On the other hand, the collective pressure from millions across the world on social media put the abduction of these young women on the international agenda; countries like US and UK pledged intelligence support and the UN placed sanctions against Boko Haram. Others argue that this attention was actually what Boko Haram wanted – a PR coup. Who had actually heard of them before 14 April 2014? There is no doubt that the situation in Nigeria is extremely complex with the country divided between the predominantly Muslim north and Christian south. Perhaps Islamic radical terrorists Boko Haram have engineered the situation to make the Christian President look very weak in the global arena in the run up to the 2015 election?
Despite all the arguments, debates and discourses, one startling fact remains: 170 days on, over 180 young women remain missing.
My question for us today is: what can we *do* about it?
You see, many of these young women are my sisters. I’m part of Girls’ Brigade (www.gbworldwide.org), an international mission movement, and some of these young women are GB members.
I hope for them.
I hope for their return. I hope for their moment of freedom. I hope with all my heart that their tomorrow is different from their today.
I believe in hope for these young women.
Hope. What a beautiful word; a biblical word. But what does it mean? I asked some of my friends:
Hope Is dancing to the beat of you heart when passion overcomes fear!
Hope is living in the light of Christ and knowing that this world's darkness can never extinguish it.
For me, hope is not ‘wishy washy’ optimism. In Scripture, hope is an indication of certainty. It means a confident expectation. Rather than being static or passive, it is dynamic, active and life sustaining. There is only one true source of hope; God. Psalm 62:5 reminds us: ‘For my hope is from Him.’
I want to be a Gospel hope-giver in this situation. I believe that you and I are called to be.
So what can we do?
- Choose to spread a message of hope via Open Doors, a charity which works with the persecuted church. You can send a message of encouragement to the girls’ families here.
- Pray. With hope in Christ – through Christ, everything is possible. Let’s intercede for these girls and the horrifically unjust situation. Why don’t you commit to praying for 5 girls by name?
- Empower others to pray and engage with justice issues. For Day 150, GB International produced a creative prayer resource (in collaboration with Open Doors). We want to invite everyone to use it. Our vision is to create a tidal wave of prayer across the world; we’d love if you would join us too.
- Don’t let other people forget – Whether we like it or not, our politicians have power. They help to shape political agendas not only in the UK but globally. Write or email your MP just like some members of GB England & Wales did. Don’t let them forget.
Today, I’m refusing to forget that my sisters don’t have their freedom. I’m refusing to give up hope that this situation can’t change. But I don’t have all the answers and solutions. Perhaps, collectively, we do?
Dr Claire Rush is Participation and Advocacy co-ordinator for Girls’ Brigade Ministries, a trustee of the Sophia Network and is passionate about empowering a generation of women to reach their full potential. Being from ‘Norn Iron’, this means she basically lives on a train or plane. A version of this was first published on threads.