May 16 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

4-BRING-BACK-GIRLS-NIGERIA

Pope calls for the release of missing girls

Pope Francis has led calls from around the world calling for the safe return for a group of more than 200 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls.

The Holy Father took to the social media website Twitter last Saturday to say ‘Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria #BringBackOurGirls.’

The day before the Vatican had issued a formal statement condemning the abduction.

“The denial of any kind of respect for life and for the dignity of the human person, even the most innocent, vulnerable and defenceless, calls for the strongest condemnation,” Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, said.

Nearly 300 girls, most of them aged between 16 and 18, were kidnapped April 14 from their boarding school in Borno, Nigeria’s northeastern-most state. There are 276 girls still in captivity, while 53 escaped, local reports suggest.

Abubakar Shekau, leader of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for the abductions and has threatened both to sell the girls into slavery, and to perform more attacks on schools. The group is strongly opposed to the education of girls.

A new video released by Islamist militants on Monday claims to show around 100 girls kidnapped from a school in Nigeria last month. Abubakar Shekau, said they would be held until all imprisoned militants had been freed. He said the girls had converted to Islam.

The video claims to show them praying.

Boko Haram, whose name means ‘Western education is sinful,’ sparked an uprising in 2009 and seeks to impose sharia law on Nigeria. So far it has targeted security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, moderate Muslims in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north, and now schools.

In addition to the Vatican, the incident has drawn the attention of many other nations across the globe, provoking international outrage and bringing offers of support for rescue efforts from China, the US, France and Britain.

Boko Haram’s attacks have killed thousands since 2009. So far this year, they have killed 1500 people, according to the BBC. The UN estimates that the attacks have led to more than 470,000 internally displaced persons in Nigeria.

According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the group has attacked more than 40 churches since 2012. It attacked churches on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day three years in a row, from 2010 to 2012, and has ordered Christians to leave the country.

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism’s 2012 report ranked Boko Haram the second most deadly terrorist group in the world, surpassed only by the Taliban of Afghanistan.

 

 

—This story ran in full in the May 16 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.

 

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