What if 276 girls from schools in Chicago were kidnapped in the middle of the night by armed men three weeks ago and are still missing?
I can just imagine what kind of uproar the city of Chicago – let alone the rest of the country – would make if this were the case.
However, this kind of uproar I envision is not being made for the 276 school girls in Nigeria who have been kidnapped and are being sold into slavery, forced to marry, or coerced to convert…
Maybe this is because it is difficult to comprehend such a horrendous event.
Maybe this is because we struggle to embrace our anger, to grieve, and to take action for our children and youth across the world when the situation seems so distant from us and we feel so powerless.
Maybe we just don’t have the words to say, the knowledge of what we can do, or even just the ability to swallow the realities of this horror.
The past few weeks I have found myself struggling with this tension. One minute I am overwhelmed with my incredible heart-break over these young girls and the next minute I go back to my privileged life where I don’t have to think about or face this reality…
And yet, I keep coming back to these girls… These helpless girls who once sought education, dreamt about doing something great with their lives, played with their friends at school, and were loved by their teachers and families. I keep coming back to these girls: thinking about what it would have been like for them to bravely go to school in the midst of the growing threats and violence that surrounded them. I keep going back to these girls: picturing what it would have been like for them to be woken up in the middle of the night by armed men disguised in army uniforms, thinking they were being led to safety, and then finding out they were wrong as they were forced into trucks and watched their school get set on fire by these once-trusted “guides.”
I keep going back to these girls: thinking about how they could have been my neighbor, my niece, my goddaughter, or my youth from my church ministry.
…And then my heart aches, and I feel angry, grief-stricken, and powerless.
Yesterday I was inspired by Jan Edmiston’s post “Please Pick One” where she urges readers to pick one name on the list of abducted girls (only 180 out of the 276 have been identified) and pray for her every day until she returns home. This is just a small commitment we can each make. It only requires us to make room for a little interruption each day in our very privileged lives. But it is one thing we can do to stand with these girls, their families, and all other girls around the world who have been denied their humanity.
I have chosen to pray for Yayi Abana. I don’t know much about her. All I know is that she is identified as Muslim and she is a daughter, a granddaughter, a neighbor, a friend, a student, and possibly a sister. She may be 15 or 16 years old. She likely had dreams and inspirations, struggles and fears, celebrations and joys. She is a beloved child of God.
I pray for Yayi, her family, her friends, her neighbors, her community, the protesters who are bravely standing up for her. I pray for hope, healing, safety, answers. I pray for community, comfort, love, peace.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
And I urge you to pick a girl on the list (or think of a girl whose name is unidentified) and make a commitment to pray for her daily, as well. Maybe writing a prayer or a reflection about her and her family and sharing it with others on your blog, Facebook, twitter, or in person will help you to follow through with this commitment and will encourage others to do the same. These girls and their families need our prayers. They need our support. They need the world to feel outraged and to cause an uproar. So let us join together in lifting our voices and our prayers boldly and loudly for God’s children and youth around the world because all of God’s children deserve to live fully as they were created to live!
Please Pick One (achurchforstarvingartists)
Do We Pray For Chibok (Rev. Grey Maggiano)
Dear World: A Lament for 234 Nigerian Girls (terynobrien.com)
Why Girls In Nigeria Should Matter To You (rageagainsttheminivan.com)
Tonight, All the Children are Crying: A Lament for Nigeria (thetalkingllama)
In Which We Pray: Bring Back Our Girls (sarahbessey)