UCC continues prayers for kidnapped Nigerian girls as video surfaces
Written by Connie N. Larkman
May 13, 2014
Almost a month after they were kidnapped, scores of Nigerian schoolgirls, sitting together and draped from head to toe, have been seen in a video just released by the terrorist group that spirited 276 of them away from their classrooms April 14. As this proof of life of the kidnapped girls surfaces, the United Church of Christ continues to offer prayers for each teen's safe return and advocates for international policies that outlaw gender based violence.
"It's important not just to look at ways the United States can assist Nigeria's efforts to return these girls to safety, but also to seek long-term solutions," said Derek Duncan, associate for Global Advocacy and Education, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ. "What tangible steps can we take to create a world where women and girls are free to go to school, to work, and to lead their communities without the threat of violence in the home or society at large? For years we have supported passage of the International Violence Against Women Act which, if passed, would help resource programs globally that reduce gender-based violence."
The bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), reintroduced May 9 in the Senate, would make reducing the levels of violence against women and girls across the globe a top diplomatic priority for the United States and would empower the U.S. government to respond quickly to incidents like the kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria.
"Violence against women and girls is one of the greatest barriers to overcome in order to address economic inequality, international development, HIV/AIDS and other global public health crises, and international conflict," said Sandy Sorenson, director of the UCC Washington office. "What is significant and critical about I-VAWA is that it takes a comprehensive and multilayered approach to addressing gender-based violence around the world. I-VAWA would make ending violence against women and girls a top priority in diplomatic efforts and in foreign assistance programs."
The fate of the Nigerian schoolgirls has already become the focus of intense international concern. First Lady Michelle Obama took over the President's weekly address on Saturday, May 10, calling the mass abduction an "unconscionable act" of terror. "In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters," she said.
The 27-minute video, released Monday, May 12, by French news agency Agence France-Presse, supposedly presents a third of the 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group that now appears interested in negotiating, initially demanding the release of its prisoners from Nigerian prisons.
Currently, the United States is part of a worldwide effort to try to rescue the girls. American surveillance aircraft have joined the search, making flights over Nigeria, and imagery from satellites is said to have been provided to the Nigerian government.
Sorenson believes the kidnapping in Nigeria underscores the need for the International Violence Against Women Act. "It does not require a large influx of new funding; rather, the focus is on coordinating already existing humanitarian and foreign assistance programs to include this emphasis on gender-based violence prevention and response, with community-based, culturally competent approaches."
For news, resources and more information related to the missing girls, visit ucc.org/bringbackourgirls.