POPE FRANCIS has expressed hope that women enslaved by the “arrogance of the powerful” might be freed to “begin a life of peace, justice, and love” after the Islamist militant group Boko Haram released a video showing a group of Nigerian girls, thought to be those captured in Chibok in 2014, being held at gunpoint.
The BBC reported that 50 girls, some of them holding babies, were visible in the video, released on Sunday. Just two of the 276 girls who were abducted by Boko Haram — which translates as “Western education is forbidden” — from a school in the Christian town, have been found (News, 27 May). Many are feared to have been killed, or raped and forced into “marriage” with leaders of the militant group.
Delivering his sermon on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on Monday, the Pope said: “The Canticle of Mary also leads us to think about many actual sad situations: in particular, those women overwhelmed by the weight of life and the drama of violence; of women who are slaves to the arrogance of the powerful; the girls forced into inhumane work; the women forced to surrender in both body and spirit to the avarice of men.”
He prayed for their freedom, and for a “tenderness that will lift them up and guide them on the road of life, and on to heaven”.
The video shows a masked man with a gun who states that the Chibok girls will be freed only in return for the release of Boko Haram fighters imprisoned by the government. Some of the girls are seen in the video pleading with their parents and the government to release the men and secure their freedom.
One of the girls, who identified herself as Maida Yakubu, asked her parents to “please be patient”. “There is no kind of suffering we haven’t seen,” she said. “Our sisters are injured, some of them have wounds on their heads and bodies. Tell the government to give them [Boko Haram] their people so we can come home to you.”
Samuel Yaga, the father of Serah, one of the girls abducted two years ago, told the BBC Hausa service: “You helplessly watch your daughter, but there is nothing you can do. It’s a real heartache. Those who are still alive — we want them back. We want them back irrespective of their condition.”