Because you can’t do everything doesn’t absolve you from doing something. We must #BringBackOurGirls.
“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah.” –Abubakar Shekau, Leader of Boko Haram
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” – Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Like you, I followed the shocking mass abductions of Nigerian school girls by extremists in Nigeria. Like you, I felt horrible and grateful that mass kidnappings don’t happen here in the States. I rationalized away my outrage with arguments like:
“What does this have to do with me? I can’t do much to help. These things happen all the time in places like Africa and the Middle East.”
I had written extensively about Syria and the plight of the children in squalid border camps there; few had taken notice of those articles. My wife, my council and conscious, put it to me plainly,
“Of course you should write about Nigeria. If our daughter was taken I would want anyone with a voice to keep talking about it.”
So I shrugged off my cynicism and got to work.
A year ago Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, released a video announcing that his fighters would begin abducting girls and selling them. The name Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful” in Hausa, the local language. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram wants to impose a strict enforcement of Sharia law in Nigeria. They oppose the education of women and believe women should be barefoot, pregnant and subservient to their husbands. If Boko Haram is successful, they will impose Taliban type rules in all of Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. On April 14, Abubakar Shekau made good on his threat in a remote corner of northeastern Nigeria. The terrorists, posing as soldiers, shot security guards, stormed a students’ dormitory and fled in vehicles with approximately 300 terrified girls. Now, Shekau, is threatening to put the girls on the market as sex slaves or child brides.
Unfortunately, so far, the government of Nigeria seems unable or unwilling to find these girls. President Goodluck Jonathan hasn’t even bothered to visit the region. When he finally broke his silence on this issue he lambasted the parents for not cooperating with the police. Patience Jonathan, who is the first lady, met with some of the mothers of these girls and told them that they really needed to be quiet and were bringing shame and embarrassment to Nigeria.
Extremists aren’t born; they’re raised. These girls represent the future of Nigeria and the rest of the continent. Their fates are the fates of millions of other girls. Their futures are inextricably linked to the futures of our children. These girls and our children will share either cycles of prosperity or violence as they grow together in this world. As we all learned on the morning of September 11th, 2001, oceans and boarders are totally irrelevant today. The threats that we ignore today because they seem so far away, will be at our doorstep one morning.
The greatest threat to groups like the Taliban, Al Queda and Boko Haram aren’t drone strikes; their greatest threat will be educated, prosperous, independent women (and men) voting, owning and running their own businesses, providing nurturing environments for their children and leading in all avenues in their own societies.
So put yourself in the shoes of a Nigerian parent who is missing the one thing they hold most dear. A parent who is caught in a frightening position: afraid to make an impassioned plea for the release of his or her daughter for fear of what the terrorists might do to his or her kidnapped daughter but then subjected to criticism from Nigeria’s government for not taking on the terrorists. Imagine those girls. Those girls are afraid for their lives, separated from people who love them and subjected to abuse. I have a daughter and those thoughts are nearly impossible to comprehend.
I imagine my daughter crying out for me. How would I get her back? What would I do? What would you do?
Those girls are OUR girls. There is no such thing as “Other People’s Children.” Because you can’t do everything doesn’t absolve you from doing something. Reach out to your local congressman and senator to pressure them to support robust action. Keep informed and inform others about this crisis. If you can, speak, write, march, organize. Do whatever you can to ensure our government and Nigeria’s Government get the message. Give to reputable organizations that help educate women and girls globally. And don’t forget about them. Only if pressure mounts and it becomes less profitable and more troublesome to kidnap will this end. We must #BringBackOurGirls.
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