Baptists fight abuse amid Chibok tragedy

Baptist Press
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Posted: May 15, 2014 5:22 PM
NASHVILLE (BP) -- As Boko Haram threatens to sell more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian Christian girls as Muslim brides, Southern Baptist leaders are underscoring the horrors of sex trafficking and encouraging fervent prayer for the victims.

The international community has joined the Nigerian government in searching for approximately 223 teenage girls kidnapped by the terrorist group from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, in mid-April. Boko Haram claims to have converted more than 100 of them to Islam and threatens to sell the girls as forced brides or sex slaves to Muslim men.

Southern Baptists have long protested sex trafficking, including four resolutions decrying the sin, the latest being a 2013 resolution on protecting children from sexual abuse. Leaders encourage prayer and humanitarian aid for the victims.

"There are several ways that Southern Baptists should respond to the tragedy in Nigeria," said Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

"First, we should pray for the protection of the kidnapped girls. Secondly, we should pray for the release of the girls as soon as possible. Third, we should request that our elected officials in Congress use all of the political and legal means necessary to demand the immediate release of the kidnapped girls."

Southern Baptist pastors should remind their congregations of the tragedy and motivate members to pray for the girls daily, Luter told Baptist Press.

"We can make sure that this tragedy is not forgotten by making sure we keep discussing this kidnapping until the young girls are released," he said.

Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, encouraged prayer and humanitarian aid.

"We pray that our missionaries and philanthropic international activities will be able to assist these girls and their families in the days ahead," Page told Baptist Press. "It is unconscionable that this happened. It reveals the cowardly heart of this extremist group."

Southern Baptists and all Americans should have deep concern over the forceful kidnapping of innocent young girls, Page said.

"We are thankful that the United States is providing assistance," Page said, as the U.S. has sent a 30-member team to help find the girls and is flying manned intelligence missions in the search. "Our prayer is that it will come to a successful completion very soon."

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Southern Baptists must remain vigilant in denouncing the abuse of human rights globally, while offering the love and compassion of Jesus.

"We need to pray for our missionaries all around the world who are working in often some very dangerous situations calling people to see the hope and the justice that is found in Jesus Christ," Moore said. "The first thing we must do is pray for the victims and be made aware of the fact that there are horrible terrorist organizations at work around the world. Pray for wisdom, for governments in seeking justice and in the maintaining of global human rights."

Millions have held prayer vigils and demonstrations in the U.S., Nigeria and elsewhere in the month since the kidnappings as well as joining in campaigns on Facebook and Twitter for the girls' release.

Boko Haram has demanded the release of some 4,000 of its members held prison in Nigeria as a ransom for the release of the girls whose whereabouts remain a mystery. The terrorists released a grainy video showing about 130 girls and claiming they are some of the kidnap victims who have converted to Islam.

Parents of as many as 77 of the girls have reportedly identified their children in the video, according to news reports quoting Kashim Shettima, governor of Nigeria's Borno state where Chibok is located. The girls in the video are dressed in full Muslim hijabs revealing only their faces and hands and are reciting verses from the Quran.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is visiting the community of Chibok Friday (May 16) for the first time since the girls were kidnapped, Reuters News reported.

Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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