One year after Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram raided an all-girls school in Chibok, Nigeria, and took 200 young girls captive, three of them who managed to escape are now offering hope to the remaining captives, with a message that God is there for them.
"The message is be brave and courageous," said Deborah, one of the three escapee escapees who spoke to Al-Jazeera marking the one year anniversary of the event which drew international attention. "Be a hard worker and always believe in God, that whatever you are going through, God is there for you, He will help you. Have ambition that you are great and you were made to be a great person."
Boko Haram, reportedly targeted the school because it was educating young women, including 163 Christians and 15 Muslims. The organization wants to establish an Islamic caliphate and return to Sharia law, often described as oppressive to women and girls.
"Chibok local government is 90 percent Christian," Evangelist Matthew Owojaiye of the Old Time Revival Hour Church in Kaduna, told the group International Christian Concern. The "majority of the girls abducted are Christian! Why did Boko Haram visit Chibok local government? Why didn't they visit so many other local government girls' secondary schools in Borno State?"
The other escapees, Mary and Blessing now attend the University of Nigeria in Yola with Deborah and want to effect changes in their community.
"I want some changes in Chibok, like the environment," Blessing told Al Jazeera. "I want to be a lawyer. I want to fight for justice."
Mary wants to "become a medical doctor" and "to go to Chibok and build clinics and hospitals because we don't have educated doctors there. I will try hard."
Deborah also wants to go back to Chibok and help the people of her hometown, to empower them to rise up and be able to fight if necessary. Mainly, however, she wants to continue countering Boko Haram's message of keeping women uneducated.
"It was said that if you educate a girl, you educate the whole nation," she explained. "It is very important. They haven't stopped me. That's why I am going back when I graduate. The education there is very poor. So I want to help by building a school. I want to empower women by creating centers that will teach them things."
Leaders from Boko Haram have said the missing girls have been converted to Islam and married off to locals.
"I abducted your girls," Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video released in May and translated by CNN. "I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women."
In another video released in November, Shekau asked, "Don't you know the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls have converted to Islam? They have now memorized two chapters of the Quran. We married them off. They are in their marital homes. If you knew the state your daughters are in today, it might lead some of you … to die from grief."
Despite efforts from local government and assistance from the United States, the girls were not located, leading to international outrage and frustration. Numerous people gathered on April 14 and 15 to remember those who have not been found and are still being held by Boko Haram, which has led a war on Nigeria's government for over five years now and targeting Christians.