Closed courts, lockdown and curfews… Action against coronavirus is blocking efforts to free a young Christian girl abducted in Nigeria. Joy’s family continues to wait for her release on 23 March. She should have arrived home on schedule.
What is going on? The 16-year-old girl had left the public school in Pampaida, Kaduna State, like the other students, which was closed by government decision to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Time is running out. Still nothing. Concern grew and her family set out to find her.
A desperate text message
While he is helping with the search, Joy’s brother gets a call from the village chief. He learns that his sister is being held by Hamza Bello, the chief imam of Ikara district. Meanwhile, Joy manages to send a text message to her parents begging them to help her because she thinks her life is in danger. When her parents arrive at the imam’s residence, the imam tells them: “Joy is now a Muslim. She has been given to Muslim parents and can no longer live with Christians.” Her parents insist that Joy be returned to them. The imam refuses. They leave. When they come back later, they are greeted by young people who threaten them.
The lockdown is blocking the case
Since then, Christian lawyers have intervened, but the kidnappers are resisting. The health context related to Covid-19 further complicates matters, as the courts have also been closed. The details of Joy’s abduction are not yet known. There are fears that she may be forcibly married and that this may lead to violence. Despite the containment measures and curfews put in place by the authorities to curb the viral outbreak, Christian communities in Northern Nigeria continue to be the target of targeted attacks.
Cases of abduction followed by Islamization and forced marriage are sometimes carried out in collusion with local imams. They are part of a desire for “religious cleansing” aimed at emptying the region of Christians for the benefit of the Muslim population. Other young girls experience a similar fate to Joy’s. On February 19, 2018, Leah Sharibu and a hundred of her comrades were kidnapped in Dapchi. While the Muslim girls were freed a month later, Leah remained captive and was made a “slave for life” because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. Exactly six years ago, on 14 April 2014, the Islamic group Boko Haram abducted more than 200 high school girls from their boarding school in Chibok. Since then, 107 of them have been released or have managed to escape. But 112 are still in captivity. Unfortunately, these resounding events have not put an end to the extremists’ abuses, and other anonymous Christian women have had bitter experiences.
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- Pray for divine intervention upon Joy’s case so she can safely return to her family.
- Pray for grace, wisdom, and favor upon the lawyers handling Joy’s case.
- Pray for Joy’s family that they would choose to trust in God’s mighty hands as they face this difficult challenge.
- Pray for the people behind Joy’s abduction that they would have a genuine encounter with God and get to know Him as a Lord and Savior.
- Pray for other girls who are being held captive just like Joy because of their faith.