ANNIVERSARY: Protesters hold placards during a demonstration marking the third anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls in Abuja on April 14, 2017. Picture: AFP

As Christians around the world took time to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus last weekend, Christian parents in the devastated Chibok town in northeast Nigeria agonisingly remembered the 200 schoolgirls who remain missing after abduction by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram three years ago.

On the night of April 14-15 in 2014, armed militants stormed the government secondary school and kidnapped 276 girls.

Nearly 50 escaped on the night of the abduction.

Last year, 21 had been freed by Boko Haram after negotiations between the group and the Nigerian government, brokered by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government.

The military has rescued a handful of others alongside scores of other kidnap victims but over 200 remain unaccounted for amid hope they are held hostage.

Parents whose children are yet to be liberated are still struggling to come to terms with their loss.

“We feel deceived by the government. Promises are made publicly but nothing is done to make this promise a reality,” said a parent on condition of anonymity.

The handling of the kidnapping by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan is among the factors that led to its demise in the 2015 general elections. Funds running to over US$2 billion, meant to buy weapons for the military, were allegedly looted by Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

There was so much hope placed on the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC), led by President Muhammadu Buhari but hopes among parents are fading.

Christian rights groups such as Open Doors have maintained solidarity with the brokenhearted parents in Chibok.

“We have encouraged them through phone calls and visits,” Lisa Pearce, chief executive officer of Open Doors, said.

“We have raised awareness of their plight and delivered thousands of encouragement letters from supporters.”

The kidnapping of the schoolchildren is part of a bloody campaign by Boko Haram to carve an Islamic state in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, estimated at 190 million people and equally divided between Christian and Muslims. As three years after the abduction of the Chibok girls was marked, there was international outrage at the incident and other kidnappings, some that go unreported daily. It is estimated 8 000 civilians are held captive during the insurgency that has claimed the lives of over 20 000 civilians and displaced more than two million.

Amnesty International noted Boko Haram continued to abduct women, girls and young men who were often then subjected to horrific abuses, including rape, beatings and being forced into suicide bombing missions.

“Sadly, many abductions go unnoticed and unreported by the media. This has left many parents and relatives without any hope of being reunited with their loved ones,” said Nigeria director for Amnesty, Makmid Kamara.

UN human rights experts also made a fresh appeal to Nigeria to rescue the schoolgirls and thousands others held captive.

“It is deeply shocking that three years after this deplorable and devastating act of violence, the majority of the girls remain missing,” the UN special rapporteurs jointly stated said.

The experts pointed out as “more time passes there was a risk that the fate of the remaining girls would be forgotten”. – CAJ News