Call to pray for kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls
As the rescue effort for the abducted teenage girls in Nigeria continues, Dr Jonathan Oloyede has issued an urgent call to Christians to hold them in prayer.
Pastor Oloyede, convenor of the National Day of Prayer and Worship, said, "I earnestly call on Christians everywhere to pray and pray again for the Chibok kidnapped schoolgirls, their families and Nigeria! This is a heartbreaking situation and... I urge you to use this situation to pray for all those who are persecuted and oppressed based on religion.
"I join with national and church leaders to condemn this brutal violation of Freedom and Justice," he added.
Some 276 girls are thought to still be enslaved by members of Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic group which has caused over 1,500 deaths across Nigeria so far this year. A video was obtained by AFP news agency last week in which leader Abubakar Sheka claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and threatened to sell the girls.
A second video emerged yesterday, in which over 100 girls - supposedly among those abducted on April 14 – are shown wearing the full-length hijab and praying to Allah, chanting, "Praise be to Allah, the lord of the world."
In the clip, Sheka declares: "These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with... we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims."
He also says that he will release the girls in exchange for imprisoned Boko Haram militants. "We will never release [the girls] until after you release our brethren," he contends.
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Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, who has travelled to Nigeria in the wake of the crisis in his capacity as the UN special envoy for global education, has condemned Sheka's leadership, accusing members of Boko Haram of "cruelly and barbarically using 200 kidnapped girls to bargain for the release of prisoners and exploiting innocent young girls for political purposes".
"It is urgent that all religious leaders in every part of the world speak out against their perverted and twisted version of Islam which involves forced conversions and the sale of girls as sex slaves," he added.
Dr Oloyede, who is himself a Nigerian convert to Christianity after being brought up as a Muslim, says "no one should be forced into any religion and it is my hope and prayer that everyone of these schoolgirls will be found safe and alive!
"We pray for displaced communities within Borno state, Maiduguri and surrounding towns. We pray for comfort to all family members in anguish, shock and distress over the fate of their girls. We pray for the Nigerian government and all supporting foreign countries to deploy all necessary resources to find these young people.
"Pray, pray, and pray again because with God Nothing is Impossible!!" he urges.
Christian persecution charity Open Doors is offering to send on messages of support to the families in Chibok who are suffering as a result of Boko Haram's actions. For more details click here