World church body offers inter-religious contacts to help Nigeria with abducted girls

(Photo: REUTERS / Akintunde Akinleye)People hold signs during a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 5, 2014. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Monday for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month, the French news agency AFP reported, citing a video it had obtained. Boko Haram on April 14 stormed an all-girl secondary school in Chibok, in Borno state, then packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon.

The World Council of Churches has written to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan saying it is ready to help mobilize the inter-religious and international communities in peacefully resolving the abduction of more than 250 young women by Boko Haram.

WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit wrote to Jonathan expressing "profound concern" about the abduction and encouraging "swift and peaceful" action to restore these students back to their homes.

The letter from the general secretary of the WCC, which represents more than 500 million Christians worldwide, was issued Monday.

"This tragic situation is devastating not only to the immediate community, but also to all Nigerians praying and working for peace.

"It touches the World Council of Churches directly, as many who have lost their daughters are members of our church families in Nigeria," said Tveit.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the abduction of the schoolgirls in the north of Nigeria last month, and said it will sell them into slavery according to a video obtained by the AFP news agency.

"I abducted your girls," Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a one-hour video released on Monday. ""By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace," he said, adding that the girls were being held as "slaves."

Militant Islamist groups Boko Haram's name means "Western education is a sin."

It has waged a violent campaign in the north-east that has killed hundreds of Christians and Muslims. Nigeria's.

In November, the militant group abducted dozens of Christian women, most of whom were later rescued by the military deep in a forest in Maiduguri, CNN reported on May 2.

It reported that at the time of their rescue, some were pregnant or had children, and others had been forcibly converted to Islam and married off to their kidnappers.

Tveit said in his letter the WCC's concern for the abducted Nigerian students is "intensified in the face of increasing global sexual exploitation of girls and women, and the possibility that these abducted students may become victims of just such injustice and violence."

He wrote, "Following the rescue of these children for which we pray, the impact of exploitation may require long-term accompaniment of the young women and their families by the Nigerian government, faith communities and local networks of care and support."

Assuring the WCC's support to the Nigerian government, Tveit said that the WCC is ready to assist in "mobilizing the inter-religious and international communities to seek effective and peaceful means towards safely restoring these students to their homes, loved ones and communities."

Read full text of the WCC general secretary's letter

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