In Nigeria, church members pray for their girls to come home (Updated)
Update: Contacts in Nigeria say that some of the kidnapped girls have escaped, but at least two with ties to Churches of Christ are still in captivity. We will post information as it becomes available. Please see our new interview with Nigerian Christian and Faulkner University professor Uduak Afangideh about the plight of the girls — and an upcoming prayer service in Alabama.
In northeastern Nigeria, the families of more than 200 girls abducted by a militant Islamic group pray for their daughters’ safe return.
At least seven of the girls have family members in Churches of Christ, said Steve Worley, director of the School of Biblical Studies in Jos, Nigeria.
A poster promoting the social media campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls.” (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The school, located northeast of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, has prepared more than 300 ministers for Churches of Christ in Nigeria and countries across the African continent, including predominantly Muslim nations. The Gadsden Church of Christ in Alabama supports the 25-year-old school.
Chibok, where the girls were abducted from a boarding school, is home to several Churches of Christ, said Worley, who has visited the village along with members of the Oldham Lane Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. A graduate of the School of Biblical Studies served as a village chief, Worley said.
The kidnappings are the latest acts of violence by Boko Haram, whose leaders claim they seek to defeat the influence of Western education in Nigeria. Hardest hit is the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno.
“Teachers, schools and children are in the front line in Borno State,” Worley said. “Despite the loss of church members and church buildings, the Gospel continues to convict souls in Borno State. We now have more than 350 congregations located in the northern states of Nigeria.”
“Teachers, schools and children are in the front line … Despite the loss of church members and church buildings, the Gospel continues to convict souls.”Steve Worley, School of Biblical Studies, Jos, Nigeria
The violence is mired in politics, said Ebenezer Udofia, a Nigerian Christian who grew up in the country’s predominantly Christian south before moving to the northern city of Maiduguri. There, he worked on the farm of a wealthy Muslim before he was recruited by Healing Hands International , a nonprofit supported by Churches of Christ, to teach sustainable agriculture.
As violence between Muslims and Christians increased in the region, Healing Hands relocated Udofia and his family to Kenya to work alongside the faculty of the Nairobi Great Commission School. (See our recent profile of Udofia, reported from Kenya.)
Though northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim, the Chibok area has a sizable Christian population, Udofia said. If violence destabilizes the region, its people may choose to vote against Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, who identifies himself as a Christian, in upcoming elections.
“My prayer is for the girls to be rescued, regardless of anything,” Udofia said. “Also, for God to give the country’s administration wisdom to handle the delicate situation in the search and rescue operations.”
Eleni Melirrytos, a church member from Athens, Greece, demonstrates food preservation strategies during a workshop in Maiduguri, Nigeria, during a 2008 workshop sponsored by Healing Hands International. Ebenezer Udofia helped coordinate the workshop. Participants, including several Muslim women, thanked the Christians for their assistance. Since 2008, Maiduguri has been a focal point of attacks by Boko Haram. See The Christian Chronicle’s story about the workshop. (PHOTO PROVIDED)
Glenn Pemberton also is praying for the missing girls. The professor of Old Testament at Abilene Christian University has authored two books on psalms of lament — ” Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms” and “After Lament.”
On his Facebook page, Pemberton published an original psalm about the girls’ plight. Here’s an excerpt:
God, with due respect, these girls are still alive;please turn the camera of every news stationon these girls and on their desperate families.…Forgive us for not seeing this sooner,forgive my blindness.If these young girls were Americans,we would be screaming for action, yesterday!I know there are enormous cultural differences,complexities I do not understand, even so…please help us, help these girls and their families,and please bring these men to justice.
Goodnews Peter, a minister in southern Nigeria, says he’s grateful for the attention.
“Ordinary Nigerians depend on prayers and intervention of international communities — and God,” he said.
“As we are talking, it is innocent ones that are suffering.”
“As we are talking, it is innocent ones that are suffering.” Goodnews Peter, minister for Churches of Christ in the West African nation of Nigeria