GROWING international outrage over the kidnapping of schoolgirls
in Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram has led to intervention
from the United States and the UK, who have both dispatched teams
of military and law-enforcement experts to find the girls.
The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has been heavily
criticised by the parents of the girls for the government's slow
response to the abductions. Protests were held last weekend in
Nigeria and in cities across the world, including London and Los
Angeles, condemning the kidnapping and calling for the girls'
About 230 schoolgirls - aged between 16 and 18 - were kidnapped
from their school in Chibok, Borno state, in the north of Nigeria
on 14 April. On Monday, the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau,
threatened to "sell" the girls. There are fears that they have
already been smuggled over the border into Chad and Cameroon.
Since the mass kidnapping, another eight girls have been
abducted by suspected militants in the north-east.
David Cameron made the offer of British help in a phone call
with Mr Jonathan on Wednesday, shortly after telling the House of
Commons the abductions were an "act of pure evil".
Reports suggested the team of experts will focus on strategy and
co-ordination, rather than joining the search for the girls on the
On Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned the
kidnapping as an "atrocious and inexcusable act". In a statement,
he said: "I appeal to those who have taken these schoolgirls to
release them immediately, and unharmed.
"This is in a part of Nigeria I have visited and in a country
whose people are close to my heart. Let your hearts be open in
compassion and mercy to those who have suffered so much."
President Barack Obama described the kidnappings as
"heartbreaking" and "outrageous", and denounced Boko Haram as "one
of the worst regional . . . terrorist organisations".
He said, however: "This may be the event that helps to mobilise
the entire international community to finally do something against
this horrendous organisation that's perpetrated such a terrible
A petition created on the website change.org calling for more to
be done to bring about the safe return of the girls had more than
554,000 signatures by Thursday.
An online campaign to raise awareness of the kidnapping, dubbed
#BringBackOurGirls, has travelled across the world on social media,
with even Michelle Obama, the First Lady in the US, tweeting a
picture of herself holding a piece of paper with the
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John
Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, told Vatican Radio on Wednesday that the
response to the kidnapping had shamed Nigeria.
"Our president seems to be impotent. We need to see
action. We know that Boko Haram have no sense of
humanity but that they should be able to cart away almost 300
schoolchildren in the northeast of Nigeria without any trace of
where these children are really baffles
On Sunday, the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo
Makgoba called for "all of Africa, and especially South Africa" to
rise up and demand the release of the girls.
During his sermon, he called on the congregation to "voice your
outrage at the killings in northern Nigeria, and at the recent
abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls there".
The convenor of the International Anglican Women's Network, Anne
Skamp, has written to the Network's members urging them to put
pressure on their governments and Church leaders to find the
She wrote: "Please request that your parish, diocese and
province include prayers for the girls and their families at
worship this Sunday 11 May, which also is celebrated as Mothers'
Day in many of our communities."
A member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has
reportedly released a list of the names of the kidnapped girls,
claiming that 163 of the girls are Christian and 15 are Muslim. A
separate statement from CAN said: "The Church in Nigeria is hereby
called to a lamentation prayer."
There are conflicting reports of how many girls are being held.
Some reports suggest that a number of girls escaped from their
kidnappers and made their way home.
On Thursday, news reports suggested that Boko Haram had attacked
the town of Gamboru Ngala on Monday afternoon, killing as many as
300 people and burning buildings to the ground.
Some reports suggested the security forces which had been
guarding the town were deployed elsewhere, searching for the
The World Council of Churches (WCC), which represents more than
500 million Christians worldwide, has promised to help mobilise the
support of religious communities to secure the release of the
On Monday, the general secretary of the WCC, the Revd Dr Olav
Fykse Tveit, wrote a letter to Mr Jonathan expressing "profound
concern" about the abduction, and encouraging "swift and peaceful"
action to restore the students back to their homes.
He wrote: "This tragic situation . . . touches the World Council
of Churches directly, as many who have lost their daughters are
members of our church families in Nigeria."
Dr Tveit said that the WCC is ready to assist in "mobilising the
inter-religious and international communities to seek effective and
peaceful means towards safely restoring these students to their
homes, loved ones and communities".
On Tuesday, the widely-respected authority in Sunni Islam, the
Al-Azhar Mosque released a statement condemning Boko Haram's
actions as contrary to the principles of Islam.
The Nigerian police have offered a $300,000 reward for
information leading to the girls' rescue.