This week Matthew and I made a powerful 1,400 km journey to the NE part of Nigeria close to where the Boko Haram has been active in recent years and months, to engage with the EYN Church in a possible response. We heard gut wrenching stories of suffering, neglect, death, hunger and declining hope. MCC is working on a response.
Though we got 1/3 of the way to Chibok (where the girls were abducted), the military refused that I as a white man could go in without protection. However, I was able to meet and hear the pathetic story of a father of two of the girls who were abducted six weeks previous. What follows is my rendition of his story. More to come….
Abga Mallum Chiroma is a peasant farmer who can’t read or write. He works hard on his subsistence farm which includes a few cattle, goats, sheep, a handful of chickens and some land. He has a plow which he pulls with a team of oxen.
Chiroma has one wife and seven children – 4 boys and three girls. He has struggled hard to provide for his family and has sacrificed so that his children would receive an education which he does not have or hardly understands.
His older two daughters, Awa (18) and Lugwa (19), are two of his children who have benefited from his sacrifice and were writing their final exams at Chibok Secondary School on 14 April. Their father saw that their future looked hopeful.
That night Boko Haram fighters broke into the school and in a matter of minutes, captured over 250 of the girls who had gathered to write their exams, including Awa and Luga. They were forced onto the backs of trucks and driven away by the fighters who were yelling “Allah Akbar!”
Immediately Chiroma heard the news, he rushed to the school and met up with more than 200 other parents of these girls. They demanded answers where none were found so they decided to take the matter into their own hands and traveled as a group to the Sambisa Forest looking to rescue their daughters.
As they moved into the Forest, they were confronted by local residents who knew the Boko Haram well and were implored that they return home. They were advised that the Boko Haram fighters were unreasonable and that there were high risks even they would be killed. Still having some faith in the Nigerian military they turned around and went home.
Six weeks on, Chroma has not seen any progress and his hopes are declining daily. He has seen and identified both of his daughters among the 100+ girls who were photographed and made public by the Boko Haram. He has an idea of what they have been going through bringing up feelings of grief mixed with rage.
When asked what he would say to the Boko Haram representatives if he met them, Chroma says, “only God would be able to separate them….either he would kill them or they would kill me!”
With despair written all over his face, Chiroma says that the Nigerian government and military “…has cheated us for not taking early action. All levels of the military, police and even the governor of the state were warned that this attack was coming yet they were nowhere to be seen and our daughters were stolen from us!”