CHIBOK, Nigeria (BP) -- As President Obama prepares to send an advisory team to help Nigeria find more than 200 Christian and Muslim girls abducted by Islamic terrorists, Christians in the U.S can help victims and their families, said Adeniyi Ojutiku, a U.S.-based expert on Nigerian relations.
Meanwhile, Islamic terrorists continue to attack mainly Christian communities, killing 300 and injuring many in the latest attack Monday (May 5) in Borno state, burning and destroying churches and homes, and stealing livestock, food and other supplies, Vanguard News reported Tuesday (May 6).
Ojutiku, a Southern Baptist and grassroots organizer in Raleigh, N.C., encourages Christians to pray for and send financial aid to victims and their families in his homeland, and to lobby Congress to hold Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's administration accountable for what some describe as insufficient outreach to help and protect victims.
The Obama administration announced Tuesday that Jonathan has accepted the U.S.'s offer to send military and law enforcement personnel skilled in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating, information sharing and victim assistance, as well as officials with expertise in other areas. But the U.S. is not currently considering deploying troops or other military resources to Nigeria, Obama said.
"In the short term our goal is obviously is to help the international community, and the Nigerian government, as a team to do everything we can to recover these young ladies," Obama told NBC News. "But we're also going to have to deal with the broader problem of organizations like this that ... can cause such havoc in people's day-to-day lives," Obama said of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls in the middle of the night three weeks ago from the Government Girls State School and no one has been able to find the victims, 90 to 95 percent of whom are believed to be Christian. Boko Haram leaders have threatened to sell the girls as wives to Muslim men, and reports support that the girls may be used as sex slaves, Ojutiku said.
The number of victims varies, but 276 girls were kidnapped and 53 escaped during the abduction or after the soldiers set up camp, leaving 223 missing, perhaps some of them killed, according to information Ojutiku has secured. Girls who reportedly escaped may have actually been released, Ojutiku has learned, because the majority of them are Muslim.
"The families of these abducted girls are so distraught, to the point where they cannot engage in their normal economic activities ... while they are still huddled down, looking for information and for the release of their children," Ojutiku told Baptist Press.
"That area [Chibok] is 90 percent Christians. Therefore, it's not just an abduction of girls; it's an abduction of Christian girls," he said. "We want to be able to also have opportunity to minister, not just materially, but also to the spiritual trauma and the spiritual needs of the people. And also when this is all over, by God's grace it will end on a good note, we'll be able to help the people to move on in their lives."
In Monday's attack, Boko Haram targeted a local market and fired sporadic shots into the crowd, before spending 12 hours killing and injuring defenseless civilians and destroying nearly every home and shop in Gamborou Ngala town in Borno, Vanguard News reported. In a separate Monday attack, Boko Haram kidnapped 8 additional teenage girls from Warabe, a village near the terrorists' main base.
Ojutiku is co-founder of the Christian-based grassroots group Lift Up Now, working to improve the living conditions of Nigerians in his homeland and help them become economically stable and lead Christian lives. Lift Up Now has some 2,000 volunteers across Nigeria and in this latest tragedy, is partnering with reputable, like-minded organizations already on the ground in Nigeria to channel aid to victims.
"We are identifying such organizations and we work with them in partnership," Ojutiku said.
Among many needs are a trauma center to provide medical and psychological care to families and recovered victims, four-wheeled vehicles to help search rugged terrain, and communication equipment to help facilitate the search, Ojutiku said.
Christians will also need help rebuilding churches and structures destroyed in Monday's attack, and assistance reestablishing farming operations, Ojutiku said.
Demonstrations calling for the girls' release have been held in D.C., Nigeria's capital city of Abuja, London and other cities, and a Twitter campaign at #BringBackOurGirls has gone viral.
Ojutiku has arranged for donations to be made to The Lift Up Now Fund #1395781, through the National Christian Foundation (NCF), based in Atlanta with several offices across the U.S.
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
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