Weekly reports of abducted Nigerian women and children being restored to their waiting families has caused great joy in this country racked with so much pain and suffering. Each report raises the question, “Are any of them the Chibok girls?” The answer remains- “not yet.” But the tide has hopefully turned against an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria, at least for now as several camps in the Sambisa forest, said to be the militants’ last stronghold in Nigeria, have been captured in raids by the Nigerian army in late April and early May.
The highly publicized story of the Chibok girls has captured our hearts, and we are stunned to learn that so many others have been abducted, as well. The Nigerian army has freed around 1,000 women and children in recent weeks, and we pray that the number of those rescued will continue to grow. We also pray for these women and children as they try to piece their lives back together after this trauma.
The fate of the Chibok schoolgirls remains a mystery. Emmanuel Ogebe, an international human rights lawyer specializing in African issues, told World Watch Monitor that as of late April, the Chibok students, “are now victims of the longest running terrorist mass abduction. The prior record, held by the ELN [a terrorist group in Colombia] which hijacked a plane and held passengers captive for 373 days, has now been superseded by the Chibok girls.”
The Paradigm, a Nigerian newspaper, reported that, “the wife of Nigeria’s President-elect [Muhammadu Buhari], Mrs. Aisha Buhari . . . revealed that the release of the Chibok schoolgirls and all the women seized by an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria is one of the immediate priorities of her husband when he assumes office on May 29.” We pray that he will be more successful than his predecessor in efforts to rescue the girls.
Questioning of those rescued has produced little helpful or encouraging information regarding the schoolgirls. None of the women questioned had seen the girls. One rescued woman told Reuters that an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria soldiers in the camps, “said the Chibok girls were married off this year. Some sold to slavery, then others (militants) each married two or four of the girls.”
Through all the uncertainty, though, a few slivers of hope have emerged. On April 14, the BBC interviewed a woman who claimed to have seen at least 50 of the schoolgirls three weeks earlier in the northeastern Gwoza town before an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria was forced out.
On April 14, the BBC also interviewed the Christian parents of two of the kidnapped girls. The father, Pastor Mark, described how his two daughters were taken, his futile chase to overtake the captors, and the continual rumors he and his wife have had to continually deal with since the kidnapping. According to one report, his oldest daughter was stoned to death for refusing to deny her faith. “Even if my daughter has been stoned to death, I am the happiest man as a man of God who has brought up my daughter with that kind of faith,” the father proclaimed. He has since been told that this daughter is in fact alive. He continues to fast, pray and hope that he will see his children alive again.
Father, as our minds dart to the variety of fates that could have overtaken these schoolgirls from Chibok, we turn instead to Your unfailing goodness and purposes. We pray, therefore, for Your protection over them whatever their circumstances are, and that You will sustain their lives, protect their faith and restore them to their families. We pray for their parents who have been on an emotional rollercoaster as rumors flood around them. As they give their fears over to You, grant them Your peace that is beyond all understanding. We bring before You the authorities as they continue to rescue those who have been abducted; guide them and bring them success. And You know the circumstances of these girls from Chibok, so if it seems best to You, we pray for peace in that moment when You lovingly gather them into Your arms, having the sure knowledge that You will wipe away their earthly tears, and restore their joy. In the Name of Jesus, who deeply loves those who suffer for their faith in Him, Amen.