“And by God’s grace, we’ll make it,” one of 276 Christian schoolgirls Boko Haram kidnapped from Chibok proclaims in the preview of an upcoming HBO documentary on the captives who’ve been released.
“Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped by Boko Haram” showcases 103 Chibok schoolgirls struggling to regain normalcy nearly five years after their ordeal began. More than 100 Chibok girls remain captive or missing since the April 2014 raid on the Government Girls Secondary School in the predominantly Christian town of Chibok.
The documentary comes as Leah Sharibu, the victim of a separate Boko Haram raid and kidnapping at a girls’ school in Dapchi in February, remains captive. The terrorists first threatened to kill Sharibu, a Christian, but as recently as Oct. 15 said they would instead keep her alive as a slave.
Together, the schoolgirls are a fraction of the thousands of women, girls and boys Boko Haram has kidnapped during its 10-year terror rampage aimed at establishing Sharia law across Nigeria. During the same period, the terrorists have killed an estimated 20,000 to 28,000 people, mainly Christians and moderate Muslims, and displaced millions more.
HBO bills Stolen Daughters, airing Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. Central Time, as a message of hope and survival.
Girls featured in the documentary lived for a time at a government safe house where they received education and counseling, but eventually progressed to a residential, government-funded program at the American University of Nigeria, HBO describes the documentary at hbo.com.
The documentary will be of little comfort to parents of more than 100 Chibok schoolgirls still missing, the leader of the Chibok Girls Parents Forum told the advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) in response to a Baptist Press inquiry.
“If the video is on the already released girls, the parents whose girls are still in captivity would be negatively impacted, as it will only remind them of their own daughters still missing,” forum chairman Yakubu Nkeki said in comments the ICC forwarded to BP. “If it were on those yet to be released, it will rekindle hope and we will be happy with that. Those already released are on hand and we are no longer worried about them.”
Nkeki and the parents he represents believe some of the missing girls may be living in poor conditions at a camp for internally displaced persons. He told the ICC the account of a woman who escaped Boko Haram captivity and encountered as many as seven Chibok girls in poverty in a military camp in a Cameroon section of Sambisa Forest.
“This woman told us that there were seven other Chibok girls at the village she was held at, that those girls had been married to the Boko Haram men just [as] she was, and some of them had either two or three children,” Nkeki said. “She said they were starving so badly and would often scout on trees to see if they could find some kind of edible fruits, or pick some leaves to cook some food with.
“The government is certainly aware, but not doing anything,” Nkeki said. “We want to see the government taking concrete steps to rescue the remaining girls.”
A parent the ICC identified as Lawan said the documentary will be of little use to parents in Chibok, who have little access to media.
“Releasing a video by whosoever, about the girls that are already here doesn’t help,” Lawan said in comments the ICC relayed to BP. “We feel upset with this kind of thing.” She told an account similar to Nkeki, although it was unclear if the two were speaking of the same Chibok girls at the displaced persons camp.
Lawan’s own daughter may be among those living in food-deprived conditions in a camp, she told ICC, based on an account she heard from a woman who escaped Boko Haram.
“I have felt devastated and broken. I feel sick,” Lawan said. “Other parents of the girls still in detention are also now grieving afresh on hearing the news about the condition of their daughters.”
Many Chibok parents have little hope of finding their daughters alive, ICC representative Nathan Johnson told BP.
“They’re really losing hope at this point,” Johnson told BP. “We’re really trying to keep hope alive. There’s always a chance. But the longer and longer it gets, it’s obviously less and less likely that they will come back.”
About 106 girls are still missing, Johnson said, but it’s unclear how many of those are still alive.
At the very least, Johnson said, the documentary “will give insight into the trauma and terror that (Boko Haram) uses to attack the people of Nigeria. It will also show the true strength of these young women.
“Boko Haram is still one of the top three most active and deadliest terrorist groups in the world,” Johnson said.
ICC is among many advocating for the release of Sharibu, including the Christian Association of Nigeria, the American Center for Law and Justice and the Lift Up Now grassroots organization led by native Nigerian and North Carolina Southern Baptist Adeniyi Ojutiku.
Boko Haram had threatened to kill Sharibu and two Red Cross aid workers that the terrorists kidnapped if the Nigerian government did not meet its demands by Oct. 15. Instead, the terrorists killed Hauwa Leman, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker, and vowed to keep Sharibu “as a slave for life,” The Cable of Nigeria reported as the deadline passed.
In a video clip Boko Haram released to The Cable, Leman was forced to kneel before being shot at close range. In September, Boko Haram killed another aid worker, Saifura Ahmed, one of two workers Boko Haram kidnapped with Leman in March.
Boko Haram said the remaining aid worker, a Christian named Alice Ngaddah who works for UNICEF, will also be kept as a slave, The Cable reported.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Sharibu’s mother Rebecca that he will seek Sharibu’s freedom, Channels TV reported Oct. 3.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)