It was late in the evening when the seven pickup trucks emerged from the dense Sambisa forest and rolled into the north Nigerian town of Chibok.
They drove to the senior secondary school, where the men on the trucks – heavily armed members of the Islamist group Boko Haram – overpowered the security guards. They herded 252 female students, aged between 16 and 20, onto the trucks and drove away deep into the forest, into the darkness, into the night.
Most were Christians, members of the Church of the Brethren. The abduction took place on 14 April 2014 – one year ago today. About 20 girls managed to escape, but the remaining 232 have not been heard of since. That was a year ago.
In the first few weeks after the kidnappings, Open Doors workers risked their lives to visit Chibok. They took with them over 1700 messages of hope and support sent by Open Doors supporters and friends in the UK and Ireland – a small act perhaps, but a powerful way of letting those families know they are not forgotten.
“They are thankful for our presence, prayers and offers of help,” said an Open Doors worker shortly after that first visit. “All they long for is news from their daughters.”
As the days went on, no news came through. In our most recent report, a local worker said, “I am presently in contact with the chairman of Chibok parents who lost their daughters. The girls are still missing. There is no information of escapes. They are still in the hands of their abductors. People are coming up with false stories but the truth is the girls are still missing.”
And for some parents, sadly, it is already too late: reports suggest that up to 20 of the parents of the girls have died due to stress-related diseases during the last year.
So, where are the Chibok girls? The Chairman of the Chibok parents group claims to know from a reliable source that they are still being held in a single group. Local sources say the likelihood is that they have been moved to another country, possibly Niger.
There are also worrying rumours emerging from Bama – a town in northern Nigeria that was liberated from Boko Haram – that the insurgents ordered mass executions before they fled. Although these reports are unsubstantiated, we can only hope and pray that the girls will either be released or can be safely rescued.
The Chibok kidnappings shocked the world. But the world should have been shocked a long time before that. Because Christians have been targeted in northern Nigeria for a long time. Boko Haram has operated in the northern regions of Nigeria for over a decade.
But beyond Boko Haram, in the so-called Sharia states of northern Nigeria, Christians are marginalised and persecuted by a broader, cultural form of Islamism. The movement that imposed Sharia on 12 states in northern Nigeria predates the rise of Boko Haram, and an attempt to create a Caliphate dates back over 100 years.
The violence is not limited to Nigeria. The recent mass killing of 148 university students (of which the majority were Christian) by al-Shabaab in Garissa, Kenya, is the tip of the iceberg in what is a growing trend across Africa – the continent that is home to one fifth of the global Christian family.
Researchers from Open Doors World Watch Unit highlighted that there were two hubs for Islamic terrorism in the world – the Middle East, and perhaps more surprisingly, sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, Kenya is the fastest rising country on the World Watch List- up from a ranking of 43 in 2014 to 19 in 2015. Since the data was gathered, three more attacks on Christians have occurred in Kenya on a scale not previously seen.
Source: Open Doors
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.