Religion & Liberty Online

Explainer: Boko Haram and the Kidnapped Christian Girls

boko-haram-nigeria-350x187What is going on with the mass kidnappings of children in Nigeria?

During the night of April 16, dozens of armed men from the terrorist group Boko Haram captured over 300 Christian girls aged 12 to 15 who were sleeping in dormitories at Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in northeast Nigeria. About 50 students managed to escape, but 276 were still being held according to Nigerian state police. The group has since captured 8 more girls.

The kidnappers took the girls into the 23,000 square miles Sambisa Forest, which is nearly eight times the size of the U.S.’ Yellowstone National Park, a known shelter for the extremists.

Who is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram (which translates to “Western education is sinful”) is the Hausa language nickname for the Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad. Founded in 2002, the terrorist group is comprised of radical Islamists who oppose both Westerners and “apostate” Muslims. Based in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger, the organisation seeks to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law, putting a stop to what it deems “Westernization.” Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors.”

The group is known for attacking, kidnapping, and killing Christians and Muslims, bombing churches, attacking schools, and destroying police stations. Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths between 2002 and 2013.

Why did they take the children?

Because Boko Haram believes that Allah wants them to sell the girls.

“I abducted the girls at a Western education school,” said Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, in a video released Monday. “And you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. … I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell; he commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”

“It is Allah that instructed us,” added Shekau. “Until we soak the ground of Nigeria with Christian blood and so-called Muslims contradicting Islam. After we have killed, killed, killed, and get fatigue and wondering what to do with their corpses — smelling of [Barack] Obama, [George] Bush and [Nigerian president Goodluck] Jonathan — will open prison and be imprison the rest. Infidels have no value.”

What will happen to the girls?

Some of the kidnapped girls have been forced into “marriage” with their Boko Haram abductors, sold for a nominal bride price of $12, according to parents who talked with villagers.

All of the girls risk being forced into marriages or sold in the global market for human slaves.

What has been the response by the United States?

The U.S. Department of State is offering a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to Shekau’s location. In 2012, he was declared as a “specially designated global terrorist” for numerous bombings, including the August 2011 attack on the UN office complex in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, that killed 23 people and injured dozens more.

The U.S. is preparing to deploy a team of military, law enforcement and hostage negotiators to Nigeria, officials said Tuesday, to help with the ongoing effort to recover the schoolgirls. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the team “could provide expertise on intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiations, help facilitate information sharing and provide victim assistance.


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What is Common Core?

What’s Going on in Syria?

What’s Going on in Egypt?

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).