Keeping Hope Alive
Hannatu Dauda cradles a picture of her missing daughter Saratu.
“Anytime I hold this picture I feel as if she is here with me,” she says. “I have so much hope that if she is alive, God willing, one day my tears will be wiped away.”
Saratu was among the 230 girls abducted by Boko Haram extremists from Chibok Secondary Girls’ School five years ago, on 14 April 2014. Some escaped during the kidnapping or very shortly afterward. Others have been released – 21 girls in October 2016 and another 82 in May 2017.
But 112 Christian girls are still captive and no one knows how many are still alive.
1,825 days since Chibok changed forever
It has been five years since the horror-night of April 14th, 2014 when the lives of so many were families were impacted in the dusty village of Chibok, Borno State, northern Nigeria. 275 girls, most of them Christians, had reported to the state secondary school a day or say before, at a time when most schools in the state had been shut for fear of Boko Haram attacks. Everyone’s worst nightmare became reality as the militants struck in the middle of the night and drove off with around 230 girls on the backs of trucks as the school went up in flames.
A handful – 47 to be exact – escaped during and shortly after the kidnapping. Afterward each of them had their own tale of dread and trauma to relay. And perhaps feelings of guilt to battle for having been spared the horrors of days, weeks, months and years spent in the hands of unredeemed men who believe they serve Allah through rape, maiming, and murder.
After a few individuals escaped (see timeline) and Boko Haram released 21 girls in Oct 2016 and another 82 in May 2017, the chairman of the Chibok Parents’ Association, Yakubu Nkeki Maina, say 112 Christian girls have yet to be freed. No one knows how many of them are still alive.
Fresh wounds are always painful
Ever since that night, Open Doors has been supporting the Chibok parents with emergency relief and spiritual care. Your support has enabled us to provide them with food and medicine, trauma care, prayer, and encouragement – and has kept their hope alive.
“If they have killed her and show me her body, then I will stop hoping for her return,” says Yana Gana, whose daughter, Rifkatu, is still missing. “Until then, we will wait for her to come back. I believe that God will perform a miracle and the girls will be released. He alone can make a way where there is no way for her to return.”
Yana Gana confessed to Open Doors saying, “It has been a rough journey for me. There is a Hausa proverb that says fresh wounds are always very painful.” For her, the kidnapping of daughter Rifkatu feels like a fresh wound, even though it will soon be 1,825 days old. “Any time I speak about Rifkatu, I feel so much pain in my heart.”
The second of three children, Rifkatu is missed for her extraordinary character. “Rifkatu was never bothered if her sisters didn’t help with the house work. She always woke up, cleaned the house and prepared breakfast before we all got up. While growing up, young girls usually get into make-up and fashion, but Rifkatu never payed attention to those things. None of the young girls in my community go to church, but Rifkatu did. As a family we go to the EYN (Brethren), but she attended Deeper Life. ‘She loved the prayer life there,’ her mother told us. An older woman there called her ‘sister’ – which is unusual – because of the way Rifkatu conducted herself.”
Rifkatu was not among the Chibok girls freed in two batches. Since the latest of those releases, there have been very little developments to cheer Yana’s heart. There have been a few rumours about where they may be now and speculations about how many would still be alive after this ordeal. But there has been no substantial news.
It is a heavy burden to carry. “When she was kidnapped, laughter ceased in my house. Everybody was filled with pain, most especially me, because I gave birth to her.”
Yana tries to exercise self-comfort. “In everything that happens in life, you must be patient. You can’t change what has happened. We have tried to exercise patience…waiting to see what God would do for us. I want to give everyone who has been praying for us a word of thanksgiving. I don’t know if there is a greater word than thank you. If there were, that would be the word I would say to the believers for sharing our pain with us. You have invited us to trauma counseling, prayed with us, studied the Bible with us and, through all of that, we have been able to stand strong. We have placed our total trust and dependence on God, knowing He is the only one that can save them. We thank everyone who stood by us in different ways in our time of pain.”
Open Doors has been journeying with the Chibok parents through emergency relief in the form of food and medicine, and spiritually through presence ministry, prayer and trauma care. We implore people to not give up in praying for these parents. We invite you to write a short e-note to let them know you are praying for them – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Thank the Lord for preserving the faith of the Chibok girls and their parents. Pray that He will continue to do that for all of them.
- Continue to pray for the release of those Chibok girls who remain in captivity. Pray that the Lord will fulfil His purposes in their lives and glorify Himself in their circumstances.
- Pray for due diligence on the side of the government in keeping up negotiations for the release of the remaining captives.
- Pray for the released Chibok girls as they seek to take up their lives again. Pray that they will experience the Lord’s healing, comfort and encouragement.
- Pray for the many thousands of nameless others who remain in Boko Haram captivity. Pray for the Lord to bring freedom to them all. Until He does, pray that He may sustain them and be at work in their lives.
Sidebar – Timeline Chibok releases/rescues