Catastrophic Religious Violence: We’re All in This Together

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Who is exempt from the religious violence being perpetrated in many parts of the world, especially Africa?  Not a single one of us.

Is it, therefore, surprising to anyone that United States First Lady Michelle Obama has taken the rare step of delivering her husband's weekly video address to express outrage over the plight of more than 250 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militants in Nigeria? She told her nation and the world, "Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.

"This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls."  The militant Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok in remote northeastern Nigeria on 14 April and has threatened to sell them into slavery, while eight girls were taken from another village earlier this week.

The abductions have drawn international condemnation and promises of Special Forces assistance to find the girls from the US and UK.

"I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government's efforts to find these girls and bring them home," the First Lady said. "In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams, and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now." 

Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for the abduction of more than 200 girls in north-east Nigeria.

The U.S. first lady noted that the school where the girls were abducted had been closed recently because of terrorist threats, but the girls insisted on coming back to take exams. "They were so determined to move to the next level of their education … so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud," she said. "And what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident," she added.  "It's a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions."

They say "Charity begins at home."  Today, we call on all mosques and churches, all religious leaders, Moslems, Christians, etc., to come forward and speak out vehemently against the kidnapping of these innocent Nigerian girls and demand that Boko Haram return them immediately to their schools so that they may continue their education.

Today we urge all religious leaders, who are versed in the virtues of religion–love, faith in God, compassion, kindness, mutual respect and the protection of the individual, to speak out against these terrible acts of injustice and religious bigotry.

In particular, we call on Sheik Kafumba Konneh and all Imams in Liberia to raise their voices in protest against what Boko Haram is doing to Nigeria and to innocent people in that country.  It is not enough to preach and write about an "ideal Muslim society."  What indeed is an "ideal Muslim society" if innocent girls cannot find safety in the sanctuary of the educational campuses to learn and prepare themselves for national development?

By keeping silent about these outrageous atrocities, religious leaders, especially Muslim ones, are telling us that what Boko Haram is doing is alright.  But we know better, for Sheikh Kafumba and all the Imams, too, like the Liberian clergy, have wives, daughters, nieces and cousins who are female and deserve the protection of the government, the school system, the general society and all of us.

We condemn the archaic and backward thinking and utterances of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, who has threatened to sell the 250 girls into slavery.  We know of nothing today more reprehensible and wicked, and we call on this group to stop destroying their own country in the name of Sharia law.  The world and all Africa should come to the aid of Nigeria.  We cannot sit supinely and see Nigeria at war again; for who can handle a hundred million refugees in West Africa?  The total chaos in the Sub-Region that no one would be able to contain.

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