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"I feel so much pain in my heart": 5 years since Chibok girls were taken

by Cara Bentley

On 14th April 2014 Boko Haram set classrooms ablaze and told the girls that the school was under attack and that they were the military protecting them.

Over 270 girls were then herded into trucks to be driven to a camp in the nearby Sambisa Forest where for years many would experience, rape, pregnancy, violence and witness the death of children. 

According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, at least 165 of the kidnapped girls were Christian and belonged to the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria.

Over 40 girls escaped on the way and many of the girls who managed to escape later reported that rape was part of the captives' daily life. 

Those who did not obey the militants or refused to renounce their Christian faith were reportedly punished severely and there were suggestions that some of the Chibok girls were forced to become Boko Haram fighters and commit murders for the Islamist group. 

In February 2015, the first baby was born to one of the Chibok girls.

103 girls have been released in two batches in October 2016 and May 2017. 

The Christian charity Open Doors has been supporting some of the parents through prayer, food and medicine, including Yana Gana, whose daughter has not returned: "Any time I speak about Rifkatu, I feel so much pain in my heart" she said.

"When she was kidnapped, laughter ceased in my house,

"Everybody was filled with pain, especially me, because I gave birth to her... but Rifkatu's immediate younger sister has been more traumatised than I have been. They were so close. They wore the same clothes, the same shoes... even tied their headscarves the same way."

She said she still hoped for "God's miracle" though, to bring her daughter home.

"Even after 10 years I will never lose hope because she was kidnapped alive,

"If they have killed her and show me her body, then I will stop hoping for her return. Until then, we will wait for her to come back. No matter how long it takes."

In May 2017, the Nigerian government announced that it had secured the release of 82 Chibok girls in exchange for captured members of the Islamist group. By the time of the release of that group of girls, 23 of the parents of Chibok girls had died since their abduction from stress-related illnesses.

Tamsin taylor from Open Doors told Premier: "We'd really, really ask everybody to pray for the girls who are still held, and for their families and in fact for the girls that have been released.

"And also, amazingly, people who have been through this ask us to pray for the members of Boko Haram, for the perpetrators, that they will find another path. So, those prayers are really, really valued by all of our Nigerian brothers and sisters."

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