[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The release of 21 schoolgirls who had been held by Islamist terror group Boko Haram has been met with “delight, relief and optimism” by the Anglican Church of Nigeria. The 21 were amongst 276 students kidnapped from the north-eastern Nigerian town of Chibok in April 2014. A spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said that the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross had acted as mediators with Boko Haram. Talks are said to be on-going for the release of the remaining 83 girls who are still thought to be being held.
The general secretary of the Church of Nigeria, the Ven Dr Stephen Ayodeji Fagbemi, said in a statement that Archbishop Nicholas Okoh and “the entire Church received with delight, relief and optimism the news of the release of 21 of the Chibok girls that we had long been praying for in the last two years.
“This was particularly heartening at a time when hope was almost fading about whether these girls would return again. And while the release of these 21 girls is heart-warming, one hopes that it is an indication that the rest will be released in due course at which time the joy of the entire nation can be full.”
The released girls were taken to Nigerian capital Abuja for medical and health checks before being reunited with their families at a joyous ceremony in the city yesterday. Government spokesman Lai Mohammed said that the release of the 21 was a “credible first step” towards the eventual release of the remaining girls.
“We wish to commend the federal government and its agencies, especially the security outfit for all the efforts that have produced this outcome,” Dr Fagbemi said. “We congratulate the parents while commiserating with all those who lost their children or relations owing to the dastardly acts of the Boko Haram.
“We plead with [the] government not to relent in its efforts to ensure the safe release of the remaining captives in no distant time. It is only natural to expect the parents and families concerned to be anxious and continually disturbed by the continuing captivity of their children with all the uncertainty surrounding it. This is the feeling of people up and down the country.
“We urge all to continue to pray for guidance for our security outfit and the government for success and safe return of the girls and also for economic recovery for our country at this time. We wish our country and its leadership God’s grace, wisdom and guidance at this particular time in its history.”