photo credit: https://www.unicef.org/
Someone, cousin to the well know writer Anonymous, once said, “everyone loves a good scare.” He was probably on the payroll of a movie company. Some people love horror films or books. The bookstore owner in the movie “The NeverEnding Story put it perfectly when talking to the protagonist, Sebastian, about his favorite books. The owner said, “those books are safe.” Sebastian could read them, be transported to a different world and then be safe and sound at home. The special volume Sebastian was looking for however was not safe. The reader would actually live the book and it would be different each time.
Thousands of children in Nigeria are, I am certain, wishing their story would end. We know part of it. On April 14, 2014, a group of warmongers called Boko Haran captured a group of school girls from their dormitory in the town of Chilbok. This started a well-publicized campaign called Bring Back Our Girls. On May 6 of this year, 82 were released. Twenty-one were release during a previous October. They received attention and are in therapy.
But what of the thousands of others? Their story is beautifully and chillingly told in “The Scars of Boko Haram”, text by Aryn Baker, photos by Paolo Pellgro. Time magazine, Volume 190, Number 2-3, 2017, pages 40-51. To quote page 46:
“For every young woman who is whisked into a comprehensive reintegration program, thousands more traumatized Boko Haram abductees have been thrust, untreated into communities that are not equipped to tend to their wounds. Parents have been reunited with children who were beaten, starved and forced to participate in ritualized massacres. Some converted. Others fought for the insurgents. Many were raped.”
The article points out that abductees, child and adult alike were told they must punish offenders of the Boko Haram creed, even to the point of murder, or their lifes would be forfeit. Some were coerced to kill their own parents, for “a child who can kill his parent can do anything.” (pp 47)
Living with what happened is horror enough, but after the victim returns home, the nightmare worsens. Townspeople reject young women escapees for “sleeping with the enemy” (most were forced) and consider their babies as “bad blood”. Because many victims will chant Boko Haram creeds when stressed, townspeople ostracize them as walking time bombs.
Try going to school, getting a job or, well, anything to prove you are not what you are being told you have become. It’s next to impossible. Because the country has been so torn by the war to stop Boko Haran, funds are short and available treatment is scarce.
So can they have happy endings to their stories? It seems a far possibility as things stand right now. Geoffrey Ijumba, head of the UNICEF field office in Maiduguri, stated: “If nothing adequate is done to help this generation of children, very soon we will have a bigger problem than the one we have now.” (pp 49) The far light in the tunnel is therapy. The Neem Foundation is an organization founded in 2016 to offer counseling to Boko Haram victims. The group sessions are time-consuming and staff-intensive, but are considered the best way for a better if not happy ending. Without this ending, the next chapter in the story is mental illness, drug use, and social crimes to hit back at the government that failed them. (pp 49)
Think about your own life stories and those of your family and friends. Would you write any of them into these pages? Of course not! I intent to put more than these words into this. I intend to, after prayer, contact the two sources below and find out how I can donate some badly needed funds. Please, share this blog with everyone you can and consider prayerfully if you too can help. We may not help the entire nation, but we can help one more person.