Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has asked Canadian Anglicans to pray for the safe return of more than 220 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted nearly three weeks ago by the radical Islamic group, Boko Haram.
“Pray for these innocent girls and young women terrorized and trafficked at gunpoint under the cover of darkness into a future that is grim,” said Hiltz in a statement issued May 7. “Pray for their families who are desperate for information as to their whereabouts…Pray for those who seek a forum for negotiating their release. Pray for a change of heart on the part of these armed extremists.”
Hiltz suggested that prayers be made in a public way, including community prayer vigils. He urged Anglicans to wear a white ribbon, the same symbol worn between December 6, the National Day of Action to End Violence against Women, and December 10, International Human Rights Day. “Let’s hang white ribbons on our church doors, and encourage other keepers of public buildings to hang ribbons as well,” added Hiltz.
Members of the Anglican Communion’s International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN) have also asked Anglicans around the world to remember the girls in their prayers and to sign an online petition expressing support for efforts to ensure their safe return and to make sure schools are protected from similar attacks. IAWN steering group convener Ann Skamp urged Anglicans to ask their respective governments to apply pressure on the Nigerian government to address the situation.
“Please request that your parish, diocese and province include prayers for the girls and their families at worship this Sunday [May 11], which also is celebrated as Mother’s Day in many of our communities,” Skamp added.
Boko Haram’s statement that the girls, who were abducted in the town of Chibok, were going to be sold “in the market” as brides is “appalling,” said Hiltz. “It is an abomination against internationally held human rights, and an absolute affront to the efforts of many nations to honour the Millennium Development Goals to empower women and young girls through education.”
Hiltz commended for use the following prayer, written by Elizabeth Smith, of the diocese of Perth, Anglican Church of Australia:
O God, we cry out to you
for the lives and the freedom
of the 276 kidnapped girls in Nigeria.
In their time of danger and fear,
pour out your strong Spirit for them.
Make a way home for them in safety.
Make a way back for them
to the education that will lift them up.
Hold them in the knowledge
that they are not captive slaves,
they are not purchased brides,
but they are your beloved daughters,
and precious in your sight.
Change the hearts and minds of their kidnappers
and of all who choose violence against women and girls.
Cast down the mighty from their seat,
and lift up the humble and meek,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.