They lived in the town of Chibok in Nigeria, comprised mostly of families who traditionally celebrate Christmas according to the scriptures. But for more than 200 Nigerian girls still missing after being kidnapped last April from a boarding school by home-grown extremists, Christmas never really came.
How could it?
Just imagine sending your child off to school and then finding out later that he or she has been kidnapped, along with dozens of their classmates. As a parent, you would experience a range of emotions, but would no doubt hold out hope that your son or daughter would one day be returned.
When days turn into weeks and weeks into months, however, that hope starts to fade. For the record, dozens of the girls did in fact escape in the days following their capture, but more than 200 remain missing.
The leader of the Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for the kidnapping, has even claimed that the girls have converted to Islam and been married off to group leaders. There have even been reports of a few parents of the girls’ dying from health problems that some suggest were triggered by the trauma. This horrific situation has to wear on these parents. There are no easy answers here, for reasoning with extremists never works.
Whether one is dealing with the Boko Haram or terorrist groups like ISIS,this is sadly the case. Recently, there were even reports of Isis beheading four Christian children in Iraq who refused to renounce their faith and embrace Islam.
I commend those in Nigeria who have continued to protest the kidnapping and plead for the girls’ safe return. As we start another year, let us not forget these Nigerian school girls.
And as you reflect on your own Christmas and the time spent with your family, just remember that for these girls and their families, Christmas never really came.
by Monsignor William J. Linder