More Committed Than Boko Haram!!! – A Cry Against Apathy
In Mid-April this year, 276 teenage girls were kidnapped from school in the small town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, by a group of Islamic Militants called “Boko Haram”. To this day, at least 230 of them are still missing.
The Nigerian Government displayed little interest in this case, just as they had with previous Boko Haram attacks. But the women of Nigeria felt that enough was enough and began to protest and rally against the government demanding action. And so the #BringBackOurGirls movement was born.
Translated, “Boko Haram” means ‘Book knowledge (Western Education) is sin’ in Hausa which is the predominant language spoken in Northern Nigeria, a predominantly Islamic region.
Growing up in Nigeria, I had family, Christian Southerners, living in the North, so I can say from first-hand experience that in those days, the violence we see committed presently would have been unimaginable. Christians and Muslims lived and prospered side by side. We celebrated with each other on religious holidays and we lived as neighbors and friends and even as family when we intermarried. After independence in 1960, education was a foremost achievement desired by most Nigerians, a source of family pride. Education was free for all. And though there were still those who practiced child marriage and did not believe in educating their daughters, I had many Muslim classmates in my all-girls high school and I graduated from medical/dental school with a fine number of Muslim sisters. There was no talk of ‘Boko Haram’.
The apparent backward turn that northern Nigeria has taken in the name of religion is truly troubling.
Bring Back Our Girls!
After the initial flurry of #BringBackOurGirls selfies, the world seemed to fall back into apathetic silence, but as we celebrate graduations all over America, let us not forget about these girls who also would have been graduating had they not been kidnapped from school as they prepared to take their final examinations.
It is understandable that we fell silent. I am not innocent of this myself.
We all have busy lives, running the never ending rat race, fighting hard to make ends meet, trying to make the most of any pleasant moments we manage to squeeze in before rushing back to one responsibility or other…just trying to get by.
Yes, it is understandable, but it is not acceptable.
We don’t know what has become of these girls. The few that escaped told of repeated raping and forced religious indoctrination. The others are still missing. Perhaps already sold, perhaps hurt or worse, killed. We have no idea.
Yet the Nigerian government is non-chalant. The leader of the nation, who should be representing the people and caring about his citizens, has displayed very little apparent interest in the situation.
It was weeks before he said he would visit the town from which the girls were taken, and then on the scheduled day, he cancelled. Fearing for his life, it is said. Then you are not a true leader!! Your people are in tears, they have lost their children, your nation’s future…and yet you are too fearful for your own life to even commiserate with them.
Foreign countries have sent help and we are told that the Nigerian military is working with them to find the girls and to protect the citizens from further attacks. Doesn’t sound like they are doing a very good job of it. Since the Chibok girls, more kidnappings and killings have taken place.
We do not know if we can indeed find our girls and bring them back, but we must stand our ground. We must continue the barrage against a government that condones these types of actions.
We must not remain silent until our voices are heard and these actions against our innocent are ended.
Rally in New York
June 16, 2014. International Day of the African Child.
Dressed in Red, carrying placards, and chanting “Bring Back Our Girls!!”, we rallied in front of Nigeria House on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.
Speeches were made, songs were sung, poems were read. The diversity of the crowd and the speakers was impressive. Young and old, male and female, white and black, a variety of ethnic backgrounds and a mixture of religions; Jewish, Christian, Muslim.
The message was clear!
This concerns us all!!!
We did a roll call of all the missing girls, and the rally leader declared that we will not stop calling their names and speaking of them. “We need to be more committed than Boko Haram” She said. “We will continue to call our daughters’ names because we believe they are still with us and they can still hear us and they will return to us.”
It was moving and effective.
So far removed
But can they hear us? The girls…the Nigerian Government…Boko Haram??? Can they hear us calling?
We may think not. So why call at all?
It seems that, by nature, we do not concern ourselves with causes until they hit home.
We stand in disbelief hearing about the Virginia Tech massacre, feel sorry for the parents in the Sandy Hook massacre, cry for the Isla Vista victims killed by Elliot Rodger in California recently, but once the memorials and media coverage are over, the families are left to mourn alone and we go on with our lives and do nothing more. But no case is more or less horrendous than the other. No case requires more or less concern from us. We should always cry out and never hold silent until our voices are heard.
None of these kidnapped girls in a faraway Nigerian town unknown to us is less important than an Elizabeth Smart, a Jaycee Dugard, a Jon Benet Ramsey or a Caylee Anthony. Each one of these girls leaves behind a family desperately praying to bring her home safely.
So don’t let’s give up on them!
Don’t stop the selfies! Attend a rally! Write a letter, article or commentary!
Join the #BringBackOurGirls movement! It need not take up much of your time, do as little or as much as you wish. There is power in numbers.
Let us show the Nigerian government that the world is watching and demanding better!
We are mothers, we are fathers, we are sisters, we are brothers…WE ARE #BringBackOurGirls and we ARE more committed than Boko Haram!
By Susan Olupitan
Find more information at www.BringBackOurGirls.us
Join your local branch or start one.