CHURCHES in the UK are forming partnerships with the charity Open Doors to open a trauma care-centre for victims of persecution in northern Nigeria. It is to support parents of some of the young women taken from a school in Chibok in 2014 (News, 2 May 2014).
Of the 276 women who were abducted from the Christian town by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram — which translates as “Western education is forbidden” — 218 are still missing. Many are feared to have been killed, or raped and forced into “marriage” with leaders of the militant group. A video released by Boko Haram last month showed a group of young Nigerian women, thought to be some of those captured, being held at gunpoint (News, 19 August).
The CEO of Open Doors, Eddie Lyle, travelled to Nigeria to pray with the families and bring messages of support from Christians around the world. “Meeting four of the fathers of the Chibok girls encapsulated for me the agony of this tragic incident,” he said. “There are no easy answers beyond the fact that God grieves with his suffering family.”
He was joined by the regional minister of the London Baptist Association, the Revd David Shosanya; the senior pastor of the New Testament Assembly, Delroy Powell; and the pastor of the Apostolic Church, Romford, Jimi Adeleye, whose churches are helping to fund the new centre. It will accommodate 30 trauma victims for six weeks, and provide professional support, food, and medical care, at a cost of £660 per individual.
The effectiveness of the UK’s efforts to find the missing women and eradicate terrorist groups in Nigeria was debated in the House of Commons this month. The chairman of the Select Committee on International Development, Stephen Twigg MP, pointed to the Government’s £5-million investment in educational, humanitarian, and counter-terrorism support to Nigeria and its military.
But the Scottish National Party MP, Dr Lisa Cameron, said: “The Chibok girls who were abducted hold the same value as girls across the world. It is hard for me to believe that if this had happened elsewhere in the West, more would not have been done to bring them back at an earlier stage. . . There is a long road to tackle extremism in those areas, to offer alternative hope, and to support the population out of poverty.”
The Labour MP Virendra Sharma warned that those who are released must also be protected from further persecution within society: “The time has come for the whole world to come together. Those girls must be waiting for someone to release them. . . The girls who come back are badly treated, and not accepted.”
Mr Twigg concluded that the Government must “get back to the focus” of finding the women, and reuniting them with their families.