Benin City Nigeria-The City Of God

IMG_2936IMG_2925Recently I had the privilege of traveling to Nigeria to try and be of some assistance to the girls who are still missing, trapped by terrorist group Boko Haram. What I saw was extreme poverty, lack of employment, and a fierce thirst and hunger for……….God. Children drinking commercialized water out of plastic bags wearing T-shirts with western world graphics and images on the side of the road selling anything they can to bring money to their families so they can eat. Every road has at the very minimum five churches, businesses donning names that call on people to have faith and God Is Good all set the scene for a country whose economy and government has failed them. But there is hope. For every poor village there are smiles, laughter and joy even in the most difficult times. However, this becomes more difficult for the mothers and fathers that have lost their daughters to Boko Haram, missing since April 14, 2014.

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Thursday August 27, 2015 marks day 500 since 276 Chibok girls were abducted. At the same time 57 escaped finding some opening, running and running and not looking back grateful for their life. But now there are still 219 missing with no indication where they are. Calls IMG_2912inundate the Buhari administration to #BringBackOurGirls as the hashtag goes that has taken over twitter land in the past two years. This has certainly not proved to be an easy task by no means. No one understands why things are taking so long, why is this so hard and why aren’t you doing anything? Maybe the government expects the rest of the missing girls to be as brave as the 57 that escaped, just close their eyes and run. Whatever the case, it’s unacceptable. Months go by and people are still wondering if these girls will ever come home, can they come home and of course are they still alive?

IMG_2924Casualties mount while we watch the sneering faces of Boko Haram literally taunting the families of the girls they have stolen. Children suffer too. IDP camps are set up in the outer regions of Benin that house hundreds of children and young teenagers whose parents were killed by the terror group. Some children even forced to watch them die, their mothers get raped and their older sisters get taken and somehow these children-by the grace of God, escaped only to be homeless and displaced. How could this happen? Families are desperately looking for the young ones to bring them home. On August 13th the Nigerian Government decided that these children belong back in the North, where it all happened. That they were not the responsibility of the people of Benin. This struck fear and terror in the hearts of these children, there was screaming, fainting and seizures. Sending them back would have not only been devastating but fatal for them. IMG_2955Because of media coverage and exposure the government had a sudden “Change of heart”. Going to the camp and seeing buses lined up made me fearful of what was coming, but my fears were calmed when I found out that the buses were for the children who were reunited with their families and are going to a safe place. There are still many who are hopeful their families will find them so they wait patiently playing games, sleeping or just plain having faith in God. For now the IDP camp is home, classrooms have been built so they can continue studying, there is still a need for a proper stove and oven as well as a clean sanitary toilet as opposed to a hole in the ground with no privacy. Medications and personal hygiene items are desperately needed, especially for the young girls-it is however better than being a Boko Haram wife or a child soldier.

So we continue to wait, continue to pray, continue to have faith and believe that one day soon our sisters will come home and be released from their nightmare. Until then we continue to scream #BringBackOurGirls!