-As CAN holds 3-day prayer and fasting
In a show of solidarity for the missing Chibok schoolgirls, two women and children advocacy groups, Moms and Widows Association of Nigeria and African Princess Foundation have appealed to the extremist group, Boko Haram to release them without further delay.
In a protest march and prayer session the groups held in Lagos on Saturday, May 31, 2014, they empathized with the over 200 girls who have been in captivity since April 14, 2014. They also urged Nigerian authorities to do all in their powers to save the Chibok girls.
The groups equally sought the efforts of all Nigerians who are actively involved in the rescue operations that have attracted global response.
The not-for-profit organizations practically thanked the military and former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who recently waded into the crisis, the Presidency and the international community for their effective roles so far.
Attended by over 500 children and some concerned parents, the prayer session also involved some muslim faithful, who were represented by Muslim Brothers Group (MBG). The group led by an imam, Akinyemi Abd. Rasheed used the opportunity to clarify misconceptions about Boko Haram and their purported links with Islam. He emphatically said that the blood-thirsty group that has sent thousands of Nigerians to their early graves does not fight for muslims. Boko Haram, the muslim cleric, explained is not an Islamic but Islamist organization. And being a terrorist group, the religious organization dissociated them from their fold.
Akinyemi, who was visibly embittered, explained that muslims don’t drink blood, can’t kill Christians and fellow muslims or compel people to join their religion.
He also told the children and Christians present that Islam doesn’t encourage forced marriage and enslavement which the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau and members are promoting. The imam also prayed for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls.
In the same vein, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Borno State began a 3-day fasting and prayer for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls on Friday, June 6, 2014.
The state chairman of the association, Rev. Titus Pona, who made this known in Maiduguri, said the fasting and prayer became necessary in view of the needless blood-letting going on in the North-East.
He stressed the necessity for special prayers for God’s intervention for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls.
“I urge you to intensify prayer and fasting so that God will give us the lasting solution to the killings and kidnappings across the North-East. I urge you to remain resolute in prayers to the security challenge in the country.” The CAN leader was also quoted as advising that religion should not be used to commit devilish acts or promote selfish interest.
The President of Moms and Widows Association of Nigeria and African Princess Foundation, Pastor (Mrs.) Marie Marire had earlier in her address said it’s only prayers and total cooperation of Nigerians that will bring back the schoolgirls. She further reminded their abductors they are brothers, fathers, uncles, husbands even as she urged them to soften their hardened hearts and embrace peace.
Similarly, the Vice President of the NGOs, Barrister Pastor (Mrs.) Henrietta Mbajiaku also pleaded on behalf of the Chibok schoolgirls. In her words, “Nobody can imagine what is happening to the girls wherever they are being held in the last 54 days. They are also humans. The same blood that flows in us equally flows in them. Please release our daughters to us.”
ENCOMIUM Weekly chatted with the leaders of Moms and Widows Association of Nigeria and the African Princess Foundation. Excerpts…
The Vice President of Moms and Widows Association of Nigeria and the African Princess Foundation, Barrister Pastor (Mrs.) Henrietta Mbajiaku also lent her voice to the call for unconditional release of the children. She spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly…
What are your names, please?
My names are Barrister (Mrs.) Nkeiru Henrietta Mbajiaku. I am also a pastor and vice president, Moms and Widows Association of Nigeria as well as African Princess Foundation.
What are the organizations all about?
Moms and Widows Association of Nigeria is self-explanatory. We take care of orphans and indigent widows. Women are still being victimized when they lose their husbands, so, we fight for them. It’s an advocacy group.
We fight for the girl-child in the African Princess Foundation. Part of the reason women are being relegated to the background in their homes is because they don’t have male children. So, the girl-child is next to nothing. But African Princess is here to show that girls have a lot to offer.
A girl child deserves honour and respect like her male counterpart.
You are protesting the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls.
First, these children are a part of us. The same blood that flows in us flows in them. And as mothers (I’m a mother of five), we feel the pains of what they might be going through there. That is why we don’t have to keep quiet individually and collectively.
We have been doing prayers on their behalf. We have a party for children every Children’s Day (May 27). We cook for them, buy them gifts to make them happy. But this year’s is unique because of the missing Chibok schoolgirls. That is why we brought them together to pray for their sisters in captivity.
What is the significance of today’s protest?
The fact that we brought in our muslim brothers has a great impact in the campaign against insurgency. We all came together to show we are one Nigeria irrespective of our faith. Like you heard the muslim cleric say, those children are humans. He said, the terrorists don’t know any religion, which is why we are praying they should stop.
A lot of people are blaming the military and President Jonathan for not doing enough to rescue the girls. What is your take on this allegation?
My take on this is that Rome was not built in a day. There shouldn’t be so much fingers pointing at the authorities or whoever at the moment. We should all work as individuals and groups to make an impact in our own little ways.
Believe me, if we all work individually and cooperate with one another, this evil will stop. Let’s talk to ourselves.
So, what are you asking for with this protest and prayer session?
It’s a one-point agenda. We demand the immediate release of Chibok schoolgirls.
Obviously enraged and appalled by the bloody and heinous activities of Boko Haram, who abducted innocent school girls, the founder and president of Moms and Widows Association of Nigeria, Pastor (Mrs.) Marie Marire scolded the sect, urging them to free the children unconditionally. She also commended the efforts of Nigerian authorities, individuals, groups and international community who are involved in the rescue operation. She also prayed for the end of insurgency in the land.
You are really concerned about the over 200 missing Cihbok school girls.
You and I know that those children are priceless. The way they are treating them is inhuman. They are sick and hungry. They are allegedly raped. That is the height of wickedness. The trauma of even being there is another big sickness.
They must be released. They are innocent. They are not supposed to be there. What happens at night? Who knows what they feed them on? The children are not happy. We, their mothers and grandmothers, are feeling the pain.
What about the over 1,000 people who have been wasted after the abduction of the girls?
This is a serious issue. I think we should appeal to these wicked men who also have wives and children to stop wasting lives. We need to wake up our women to ask their husbands and brothers what they are doing about this madness. These guys are not ghosts. They are human. Some of us know them.
Yours looks more like a different protest. You are directly addressing the insurgents. Some of your placards are also thanking the military and former president, Olusegun Obasanjo for their rescue efforts, so far?
We are absolutely different, like you said. We are thanking those who are working real hard to rescue our girls. We thank Daddy Obasanjo for his timely intervention. We need more of that patriotic effort. All we want is to achieve result. So, we have to close ranks and shun political and ideological differences at least for now.
Do you see your daughters released as soon as possible?
Yes, we need them now. By the grace of God, the children must be freed because I am standing on God’s word and the solid rock.
So, Moms and Widows Association and African Princess Foundation are looking forward to having our daughters back after over 56 days in Sambisa forest.
Stories by UCHE OLEHI