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Lawmakers, Students in London Join Christian Entity’s Protest against Nigeria's Abductions

Protesters outside the Nigerian High Commission in London. Credit: CSW

Parliamentarians, religious leaders, and students are among protesters who have joined the call by UK-based human rights foundation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), to end school abductions in Nigeria.

CSW leadership reports that protesters gathered outside the Nigerian High Commission in London on Thursday, October 28 to call for action to end the spate of school abductions, which the foundation noted have been on the rise in the country since December 2020.

Speaking at the protest, David Alton, Member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom said the recent surge in mass abductions “mean the lives of Nigerian students generally are being commoditized by armed non-state actors of Fulani ethnicity.”

“Since December 2020, the country has witnessed 14 such attacks on educational establishments… in the northwest and centre, with over 1,100 students abducted for ransom, and at least ten of them have died,” Lord Alton of Liverpool said.

The protest was part of CSW’s ongoing Sing For Freedom campaign, and also featured contributions from Pastor Fred Williams of Spirit Life Missions, school student Sarah Jane Wilkinson, and Mervyn Thomas, Founder President of CSW and Chair of the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) forum.

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Mr. Mervyn demanded for the release of Leah Sharibu who has remained in captivity for four years, as well as the 110 Chibok girls who were abducted in 2014 and have not been released to date.

“We particularly remember, as we have done so many times on this spot, Leah Sharibu. She is 18 years old now, but she was 14 years old when she was taken by Boko Haram, and she’s now been held for nearly four years for one reason,” Mr. Mervyn said.

He added, “The one reason is she has refused to renounce her faith in Jesus, and so she’s still being held captive. And of course, we remember the Chibok girls as part of this campaign… 270 girls who were kidnapped in 2014, and there are still 110 of them missing today. We’re here today to stand in solidarity with them.”

Sarah Jane Wilkinson expressed regret that school going children, especially girls, were forced to learn surrounded by insecurity in Nigeria.

She said, “I contrast my education with that of these innocent, defenseless girls and children, who in choosing to pursue an education have been snatched from all they know and all they hold dear to them, being pushed into horrendous, traumatic experiences of life-altering violence, forced labor, rape, slavery, and forced conversions and marriages.”

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“This is a desperate situation and millions of children are paying the price of the government’s failure to protect its citizens from violence,” Ms. Wilkinson said.

As for Pastor Fred William, the attacks in Nigeria are targeted and have a political inclination

“These attacks are deliberate. They are soft targets. They are intentionally showing their strength,” he says in the CSW report, and adds, “It’s not just kidnappings, it’s not just killings, it’s also a show of power. It’s political.”

The Religious leader laments that Nigeria’s Kaduna State has now become “the eye of the storm in Nigeria, especially Southern Kaduna.” 

He condemned the continued failure on the part of Nigeria's government to address the ongoing crisis in the country, saying, “The silence is deafening.”

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Lord Alton pointed out that although the first Safe Schools Initiative was launched in Nigeria in May 2014 following the abduction of over 200 girls from their school in Chibok, it appears to have been less of a priority for the current administration.

The Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration is currently taking place in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Commenting on this year’s theme, “Ensuring Safe Education for All: From Commitment to Practice”, the British lawmaker said, “It is imperative that attendees live up to that commendable aim, by formulating concrete steps to safeguard students and educational establishments, which extend to every area where attacks have become commonplace.”

CSW’s Sing For Freedom campaign runs until November 7, the foundation that advocates for religious freedom across the work has announced, saying, “Members of the public are encouraged to sign a petition and to raise awareness about violations of freedom of religion or belief around the world by joining American gospel artist KB and others in a singing challenge on social media.”

As part of the Sing for Freedom Campaign, CSW in Nigeria held a prayer event on October 27, International Religious Freedom Day, which was attended by three of the children who were abducted from Bethel Baptist High School.

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The foundation has also reported plans by her partner organization in Latin America, Impulso 18, to also host an online event as part of the campaign on October 29.

A petition has also been launched by CSW, the IA-Foundation, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), and the International Organization for Peace Building and Social Justice (PSJ-UK) “drawing the attention of the British Government to developments in Nigeria with a view towards securing schools.”