Nigeria (MNN) — Three weeks ago, police say 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their dormitories in Chibole, Nigeria by the Muslim extremist group, Boko Haram. Although a handful managed to escape, the fate of the rest has been a mystery.
A spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA Todd Nettleton says, “There are reports that they have been taken across the border into Cameroon. Boko Haram makes that border crossing and sometimes seeks refuge across the border in Cameroon.” What’s worse, “These girls are being offered as brides for a small bride price: the equivalent of about $12 in American money.”
With each day passing, frustration is growing, Nettleton adds. “It doesn’t seem like the Nigerian government has been effective in trying to get these girls back for their families.” The problem, explains Nettleton, is: “The Nigerian government has not found an effective response to Boko Haram. They have not proved to be effective in controlling them, shutting them down. It’s actually a year, this month that the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in three of the northeastern states of Nigeria.”
By declaring the state of emergency, the Nigerian government could utilize military force in addressing the insurgency. Now it seems their tactics have backfired.
Between January and April of this year, Boko Haram has claimed credit for more than 1,500 deaths, compared to approximately 3,600 fatalities from 2010 to 2013. Roughly 750,000 people have fled the violence, many of them agricultural workers, adding to the country’s woes.
On Thursday, yet another massive explosion struck in Abuja, the nation’s capital, killing at least two dozen, wounding some 60. Police said there were multiple devices used in the attack, and two unexploded bombs were found. Although seeming to operate with impunity, in an earlier report, VOM notes that the government’s methods of imprisoning and torturing members of Boko Haram only serve to harden their resolve and strive toward their goals.
Their goal: to Islamize northern Nigeria. Because of this, it’s getting increasingly difficult to share the story of Christ and plant churches. Nettleton explains, “Nobody in Northern Nigeria is safe right now. That’s a frustrating thing not only for pastors and those who would spread the Gospel, but for non-violent Muslims there who simply want to live their lives and raise their children.”
One question remains: Isn’t the Boko Haram guilty of human trafficking? Nettleton observes, “I think what the Boko Haram would say is that these are the ‘spoils of war,’ but the reality is they are people who’ve been kidnapped, and now they’re being used for human trafficking and sexual exploitation purposes.” However, as he lays out the events, he says, “These girls have been kidnapped out of their school; it is quite possible that some of them have already faced sexual abuse at the hands of Boko Haram, at the hands of the fighters. Now they’re being offered as brides, which would in theory be a permanent enslavement, so this really is human trafficking.”
Even though the Boko Haram has fled over the border with its captives, according to persecution watchdog groups like Open Doors and VOM, Cameroon has also become a safe haven for refugees attempting to escape the violence and persecution of Boko Haram. For that reason, VOM sends a response team there. “When this kidnapping occurred, we actually had a medical team in Cameroon, just across the border from Nigeria. Our goal was to assist and help Christians who had been persecuted in that Boko Haram area.”
For those who remain, they are the remnant Church, and still, Nettleton says, he’s met Muslims who have come to Christ and want to share what’s happened with others…so, he concludes, “There is ministry that is going on, but it has to be done carefully, and it is very dangerous.” We’ll share some ways you can meet the needs of the persecuted Church through this link.