For the families of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped from their dormitories three years ago, grief and despair have been compounded by fear, as the perpetrators of their agony continue to terrorize their town and carry out further abductions with impunity. A previous report on the school kidnapping is available here.
Since Boko Haram jihadists abducted 276 girls from their secondary school in the town of Chibok, in the northeastern state of Borno, 23 parents have died of heart disease while many continue to battle stress-related conditions. While 81 of the girls have since escaped or been rescued, it is believed that their captors -- who initially boasted that they would sell them as slaves -- have decided to hold on to their victims after realizing how valuable their high profile has made them. As a result, more than two-thirds of the girls are still missing.
The release of 21 girls last October briefly gave hope to the Chibok families and other Christians across northeast Nigeria who have been terrorized by Boko Haram for almost eight years. However, the girls have been detained for questioning and security purposes since their release and allowed to see their parents only a handful of times. To review a report on the release of these girls from terrorist captivity, click here.
Residents of Chibok are still fearful because Boko Haram has recently attacked nearby towns, and scores of families have been displaced to Mbalala, less than five kilometres from Chibok. There is now a heavy military presence in Chibok, and three of the town's 13 schools have only partially reopened. Parents are terrified of sending their children back to school in case Boko Haram strikes again, and church activities are carried out under heavy security.
A report by UNICEF has recently indicated a sharp rise in the number of children forced to carry out suicide bomb attacks -- from 30 in 2016 for the entire year to 27 in just the first three months of 2017. The agency added that Boko Haram's abduction of children is "systematic" and "fuelling" its insurgency in the Lake Chad region. The kidnapped girls are typically forced into early marriage and sexual slavery.
Ask the Lord to minister in special ways to the victimized children and their distraught families, and all in Nigeria who've experienced great pain and loss due to Boko Haram's acts of terrorism. May there be many more victims released from captivity and joyfully reunited with their long-suffering families. Pray that the country's governing officials will clearly sense God's leading as they work together with renewed strength and unity in their efforts to liberate the captives, secure communities, and bring the perpetrators to justice. In the midst of so much suffering, we trust that the Lord will fulfil His promise to somehow use what was intended for evil and turn it around for greater good (Genesis 50:20).