The 219 Missing 'Chibok Girls' - Two Years On – Hope 103.2

The 219 Missing ‘Chibok Girls’ – Two Years On

It’s nearly two years since 276 schoolgirls of Chibok in Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Still 219 are missing. Has the world forgotten?

By Clare BruceWednesday 30 Mar 2016NewsReading Time: 4 minutes

Listen: Clare Chate interviews Jude Simeon of Barnabas Fund about the 276 girls kidnapped in Nigeria by terrorists.

Cast your mind back to April 2014, when the shocking news broke that 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria had been kidnapped—by terrorists called Boko Haram.

The abducted girls, some as young as 11, quickly became known as the “Chibok girls”, named after the village they were from. The story lifted the lid on an ongoing campaign of terror by Boko Haram, on Christian communities across Nigeria.

At the time, a campaign known as “Bring Back Our Girls” spread via social media calling for their rescue, and was supported by Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, and a host of celebrities.

But today, two years on, 219 of those girls have never returned home, and world powers seem to have forgotten them.

That’s how Jude Simeon feels. He’s the Chief Operations Officer of Barnabas Fund in Australia – an international Christian organisation working in Nigeria some of the girls who escaped the kidnapping, and families of those still affected.

The Motives of Terrorists Who Kidnap Innocent School Girls

“The reason these girls were kidnapped was because they were Christian,” Mr Simeon said in an interview with Hope 103.2.

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“The Chibok village was 80 to 90 percent Christian, and all of the children who were abducted are Christians. Boko Haram in their name and ideology are against anything that comes from the West. They particularly see Christianity as a Western religion.

“Through our local sources we understood that 130 of them were forcibly converted to Islam, and we saw video clips of children wearing hijabs and reciting the Koran. In a video one of the Boko Haram leaders said these children “embraced Islam”…but in most of these instances they’re forced to embrace another religion. At gunpoint, when you’re asked to renounce your religion, what options do those children have?”

Other media reports explain that the girls have been used as sex slaves and repeatedly raped.

The West Knew Where Girls Were – But Didn’t Act

Protest for the Chibok girls in New York

A protest in New York for the abducted girls of Chibok. Picture: Michael Fleshman, flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Mr Simeon was saddened hearing recent news that the international community knew two years ago where some of the Chibok girls were.

Former British high commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Andrew Pocock, told The Sunday Times in the UK that a group of the Chibok girls were seen by UK and US surveillance operatives soon after their abduction.

However it was believed to be too risky at the time, both to the girls and to any potential rescuers, to intervene.

“We basically say the international community has done nothing to help these children or support their families,” Mr Simeon said.

Helping Traumatised Families

While the Nigerian government promised support for the traumatised families of the kidnapped girls, Barnabas Fund understands from local sources that all they sent the families was some food supplies.

They have done little to help them rebuild their lives.

Barnabas Fund is working to fill the gap.

“For the Chibok girls we have been supporting some of the families, and the children who escaped from their captivity, with trauma care and recovery, and a livelihood recovery program,” Mr Simeon said.

They are working with many of the 2.3 million Christians who are displaced within Nigeria due to war and terrorism.

“We have been providing practical aid for displaced Christians, and supporting the Christian leaders to stay strong, continue their work and support their church. We work with families to provide alternate livelihood assistance, and to give them a sense of hope by rebuilding their life.”

Child Abduction A Worldwide Problem

The scourge of child-kidnapping and forced conversion is not limited to Africa but is a problem around the world, said Mr Simeon.

“We see a similar situation in Pakistan, where young Christian girls are being abducted and forcibly married to non-Christian men,” he said.

“We also see this in Syria where a large number of Christian and Yazidi girls are being forcibly taken, forcibly converted and being treated as sex slaves, or being married to people from other religious backgrounds.”

A further tragedy for the Chibok girls is that even those who have escaped, are being ostracised by their communities, according to a Sunday Times report.

A Call To Pray For Abducted Children And Teenagers

Mr Simeon wants people of faith to pray for those kidnapped by terrorists and their families.

“The way we could pray for them is that they would have a sense of hope,” he said, “and also that they can stand strong in their faith. I’ve heard stories of young girls who are standing strong in their faith even to the point of death, saying they will not deny Christ or their faith. Pray God will give them guidance and strength.

“We also could pray that the international community will make every effort to rescue these children and give them and their families hope.”