KALAMAZOO, Mich. (May 11, 2014) – As families from West Michigan celebrated Mother’s Day with loved ones, a local group of women are raising awareness for the 276 kidnapped Nigerian school girls.
Those girls were abducted by the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram on April 14th while at school - and it is believed they will be sold into slavery.
There were rallies in Kalamazoo and all over the world on Sunday, branded to “bring back our girls.”
They chose to get together on Mother’s Day to bring awareness and show solidarity for the kidnapped girls and their families.
“We have the privilege to be with our daughters today and our sons - to be with our children,” Kalamazoo mother Jillian Green said. “These women don’t and we just want them to know across the seas and around the globe people do care for them.”
“We feel for them. We’re heartbroken for them.”
First Lady Michelle Obama weighed in on the situation as well. “Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken at the kidnapping of the more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night,” she said.
Countless celebrities - even Pope Francis - have joined in support of the kidnapped girls.
“They pulled up pick up with pickup trucks and motorcycles, heavily armed and kidnapped at least 276 girls who were just trying to do their school leaving exams,” Dr. Paul Clements said.
He’s a congressional candidate and Western Michigan University professor who taught at a similar school in Africa while in the Peace Corps.
Trained by Al Qaeda, Boko Haram has been fighting the Nigerian Government in efforts to impose their version of Islamic law on the whole country.
Its terrorist leader said in a public video last week that the girls will be sold.
“This group has been such a ruthless terrorist group for five years,” Clements said. “They’ve already killed over 1,500 people this year.”
Boko Haram roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden.”
Clements say these girls are trying to get an education because that’s the way they can improve themselves. It’s the exact same thing Boko Haram says they’re against.
Support for the girls is trending on social media worldwide with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.
The United States announces last week they too are joining the efforts and sending in aid.
“We’ve sent several military advisors, people who are experienced in hostage negotiation, people who are from the FBI, security experts,” Clements said.
As time passes, there are fears some of the girls may have been separated, sold, and taken out of the country.
“Little girls are being sold right now because there’s a market for them,” Kalamazoo mother Shannon Sykes said. “That’s a problem. So not only are those little girls not safe, but there are little girls here who aren’t safe. My daughters are not safe.”
Many of the families of the kidnapped girls are out in the woods searching for their daughters armed with a homemade bows and arrows, but nothing like the heavily armed members of Boko Haram.
The helplessness of those families is why many families say they rallied in support Sunday.