Nigeria (MNN) – Despite the 2015 promises of Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, to rid Nigeria of Boko Haram, the terrorist organization lives on. The group is thought to be behind another schoolgirl kidnapping last month.
On Monday, February 19th, Islamic militants attacked a boarding school in Dapchi, a small town in northeast Nigeria. They kidnapped over 100 girls. While some groups believe it was a breakaway faction of Boko Haram loyal to the Islamic State, many attribute the attack to Boko Haram directly. Either way, Nigeria’s terror problem hasn’t gone away.
The president called the event a national disaster and it certainly draws to mind the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014 that so captured the world’s attention.
Todd Nettleton of the Voice of the Martyrs USA says, “This seems to be a very similar situation—110 schoolgirls taken from a school, ages 11-19, so they are young girls. The culprit appears to be Boko Haram… the same as in the Chibok attack. And, once again, the Nigerian government says, ‘Oh, we’ll get them back. Absolutely, we’ll get them back.’ And their parents are left to wonder, ‘What’s happening to our daughters? What’s being done to them? When will they be home?’”
Recalling the events of the Chibok kidnapping is not comforting when viewing this newer situation. After nearly four years, over 100 of these girls remain in captivity. Many of those who have been released came home with major emotional and physical trauma, as well as children fathered by the terrorists.
“In the case of the Chibok girls, we saw many of them forced into marriages, forced into at least outwardly converting to Islam—even some of them were turned into suicide bombers. So, again, you look back at that case and the case that’s before us now becomes all the more frightening as you think about what the future holds for these 11-19-year-old girls.”
The why of the situation is hard to compute. It doesn’t make sense that someone would commit such heinous acts on young girls. Nettleton says it all has to do with the group’s theology based in radical Sunni teaching on the spoils of war. They believe if a girl is captured, she becomes the capturer’s property.
“You can’t understand these kinds of attacks without understanding the theology that drives them,” Nettleton says. “The other part of this is these Boko Haram fighters are off in the wilderness, they’re many times in hiding. And so, finding a wife through the normal process is probably not going to work out for them. So they take to kidnapping.”
Faltering trust in leadership
By many accounts, Buhari won the election in 2015 by pointing out the previous administration’s failure to address Boko Haram, especially after the Chibok case. This latest attack could possibly grant him the same poor favor as his predecessor.
“The president of Nigeria was elected on the idea and on the campaign that ‘I’m the guy who will take care of Boko Haram. I’m going to get this under control,’” Nettleton says. “When you have Boko Haram rolling into a village and taking 110 girls, it doesn’t seem like they’re under control. It really undermines the government claim that they have any kind of handle on this situation or that they’re even … moving towards having this under control. So, this undermines the confidence of the Nigerian people in their government.”
It’s a difficult situation. Nettleton says we can pray in at least ways.
First, pray for the girls in all of the horrors they might be facing right this minute. Pray for their protection, and that they would come to know the true God of hope.
Secondly, pray for the Nigerian Church: “In this area of Northeastern Nigeria, I know our staff have been there—they’ve interviewed pastors that have had to send their family away because it’s not safe. You know, you send the wife away, you send the children away because you fear an attack like this. And so you’ve got pastors that are up there ministering and serving and their families are hours and hours away and they only see them every other month, or every three months.”
Ask God to sustain and protect these families.
Finally, Nettleton says to pray for the persecutors:
“We want to pray for Boko Haram—for people in Boko Haram to have dreams and visions, for them to hear some kind of Gospel radio broadcast, for a Christian to speak to them and minister and witness to them. Somehow, someway we pray that God’s Holy Spirit would reach them and that they would hear the Gospel and come to a point of turning their lives around and confessing and following Christ. So, as we pray for our Christian brothers and sisters, we also want to remember to pray for the persecutors as well.”