- (Photo: Reuters)
Nigerian school and government officials are reporting that 187 girls are still being held captive, as of Wednesday, by suspected members of Boko Haram. The local chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria is asking Christians around the world to join them in prayer and fasting this week for their safe release.
On April 14, the alleged members of Boko Haram, an Islamist group involved in violence reported to have claimed more than an estimated 3,000 lives in the last five years, drove into Chibok in Borno state in seven pickup trucks, according to news reports. While some of the attackers set government and other buildings ablaze, others went to the senior secondary school where they overpowered the security guards before forcing about 230 of the female students into trucks and drove the girls between the ages of 16 and 20 deep into the nearby Sambisa forest.
"The Christian enclave of Chibok, a Christian village, has been thrown into mourning over the abduction of girls from a secondary school," reported Open Doors workers from Nigeria. "Almost every house has a child in this school. Cries of parents could be heard all over the town as they prayed for God's intervention over their tragic circumstances."
State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, later announced that 52 girls had escaped, leaving 77 still missing. But the head teacher at the school, Ms. Asabe Kwambura, refuted his claims and said parents reported 230 girls were abducted, with 40 having escaped.
The federal government has challenged Borno security agents to do everything possible to rescue the girls. Governor Shettima has since offered a reward of $50,000 for information leading to the rescue of the girls.
Criticism for the military's handling of the crisis is mounting, according to Open Doors. Parents have pleaded with Boko Haram to release the girls. Some have also ventured into the Sambisa forest to look for their daughters. They say they have done so without the support of the military.
Local military officers advised them not to proceed because it was too dangerous. Boko Haram is equipped with much more sophisticated weapons than the sticks and machetes the parents are bearing.
The Zonal Chairman of the northeastern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Reverend Shuaibu Byal, has urged the federal government and security agents to intensify efforts to rescue the remaining abducted secondary school girls.
"The abducted girls will most probably be responsible for cooking and cleaning for the insurgents. But there is every possibility that these children would be forcefully converted to Islam and married off to members of the group or other Muslim men," commented Open Doors workers.
Open Doors is relaying the message to join Christians in Chibok in praying fervently for the release of all the girls:
Please pray for God's grace to the girls as they face very fearful circumstances. Pray that they will experience His nearness and love in the midst of their suffering.
For God's miraculous protection for the girls and God's comfort to the parents.
Observers have been increasingly pointing to inadequate handling by the Nigerian security forces of the Boko Haram crisis. Please pray for extraordinary grace as they consider how to free the girls. Also pray for diligence and courage. Please pray that they will ask and receive wise counsel from others who are more experienced in these kinds of situations.
For God to be at work through His Holy Spirit in the hearts of the Boko Haram abductors and that they would grow a heart of compassion for their prisoners.