Nigerian military rescues hundreds of abducted women and girls

By May 1, 2015
(Photo courtesy Open Doors)

(Photo courtesy Open Doors)

Nigeria (MNN) — With all that’s been happening in Nepal lately, you might have missed this: on Thursday April 30, a Nigerian military spokesman said they rescued a second large group of women and girls who had been abducted by the Boko Haram.

This comes a day after a daring rescue on Tuesday April 28 from the militant group’s forest stronghold not far from Chibok. In that group, the Nigerian army rescued 200 girls and 93 women.

However, Open Doors USA spokeswoman Emily Fuentes is quick to note: “At this time, it doesn’t look like any of the Chibok girls were part of the rescued group.”

Now identified as “the Chibok girls” (#BringBackOurGirls), the plight of the group finally put the Islamists on the international stage. Of the Chibok girls, 219 remain missing.

Who are these newly rescued? They are women and girls who were taken in smaller groups, sometimes several times a week, until thousands were reported missing. “We heard about the Chibok girls because it was nearly 300 girls at one time; but very frequently, there are 20 or 30 being kidnapped throughout Nigeria.”

(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)

(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)

Suddenly, the world knew the meaning of at least one phrase in Hausa: Boko Haram, which translates roughly to “Western education is forbidden.”

The mass kidnapping also brought international focus to the plight of a Nigeria under threat, while providing Boko Haram with a platform. “To them, women, whether they’re Christian, or Muslims who tend to be a bit more liberal and seek out their education, it goes against their mantra. It goes against everything they stand for.”

Seemingly running amok, the group’s eradication became the focus of the presidential campaign that won Muhammadu Buhari his seat. Fuentes comments, “The ‘changing tide’ means a new president who has sworn to bring down Boko Haram in his first few months in office. Only time will tell if there is hope in finding these girls.”

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

Countering the threat of a multinational military coalition, the Boko Haram formerly pledged to ISIS, becoming the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) earlier this month. Fuentes explains, “It means that they’re upping their attacks, upping their tactics. It even means they’re more connected with the accessibility of warfare. So our ministry to the Church just continues to be meeting with local church leaders and local Christian leaders.”

Of the women and girls who were rescued this week, Amnesty International says they’re all showing signs of trauma. Recovery will be multi-faceted.

Open Doors partners are also involved with their own response: “providing trauma counseling, rebuilding Christian homes, buildings, and churches; and then working with those who have lost loved one,” explains Fuentes. She reminds us of two things. First, “An average of five churches are still attacked every week.” Second, it’s a power play to instill fear and control. “It’s becoming a huge tactic for them [Boko Haram] in recent years. Where maybe before, their tactics really focused on the attacks on Christian parts of towns and buildings, now they’re kidnapping and selling these women.”

Fuentes says, while this is a tough story, we can be thankful for the good news. “Praise the Lord for the rescue, and pray with Open Doors that the women and girls will receive adequate physical and emotional care.”

Also, remember those not yet rescued. “Continue to pray that the Chibok girls will also be found and brought back to their suffering families.”

Nigeria is ranked #10 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. In terms of action, Fuentes says, “The number one thing that persecuted Christians ask for is to pray [for them] and share their stories so more of the body of Christ is aware of what’s going on and can be praying for them.”

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