By Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D.,
They had returned to the school to sit for a physics exam. Knowing teenagers, I imagine that among the group, there were those who had studied hard for their final exams and others who were just happy to be back with their friends after the school had closed earlier in the year. Were they all asleep when the terrorists came in the middle of the night? What were they dreaming about when armed men stormed their dorm rooms? Were some of them still awake, catching up on the latest news with cherished friends? Were they the first to catch sight of the weapons aimed at them, to hear the angry voices shouting at them?
While forced into waiting vehicles under the cover of darkness, I can only imagine their feelings of terror and anguish: cries for beloved parents and family members…fear for best friends separated during the chaos…the anguish of imaging what is to come. In a span of moments, over 200 schoolgirls filled with hopes, dreams, laughter, and promise are ripped from the places and people they love. It has been over two weeks. A few have managed to escape, but the fate of far too many others is being determined at the hands of their abductors.
Despite the language being used by various media outlets, these young girls are not “brides” and they are not being sold into “marriage.” Girls who are kidnapped and forced to convert are not entering into a nuptial contract. They are prisoners of war being trafficked into human bondage, while the world watches and does very little. Real Nigerian weddings are joyous celebrations, filled with ceremony, ritual, food, and dancing. Terrorists who kidnap schoolchildren are not eager bridegrooms entering into the joys of marriage; they are criminals exploiting the most vulnerable members of society.
Bring back our daughters….daughters who love to laugh and sing….daughters who still enjoy snuggling on their mothers’ laps….daughters who ace their physics exams….daughters who like to gossip and text with their friends late into the night….daughters who dream of college and studying abroad….daughters who have a crush on the neighbors’ son….daughters who dance in front of the mirror at home….daughters who love and are beloved.
These Nigerian girls are our daughters; black girls everywhere are our daughters and their lives matter. We are commanded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, so may we do for these Nigerian children what we would do if 234 girls from Germany or Spain or Ireland were kidnapped from their dorm rooms – turn the world upside down until they are found.
Dr. Yolanda Pierce is the Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Liaison with the Princeton University Center for African American Studies. She blogs @ Reflections of an Afro-Christian Scholar