|Protesters gathered outside the Nigerian High Commission in London on 28 October to call for action to end the spate of school abductions which have been on the rise in the country since December 2020.The protest was part of CSW’s ongoing Sing For Freedom campaign, and featured contributions from Lord David Alton of Liverpool, Pastor Fred Williams of Spirit Life Missions, school student Sarah Jane Wilkinson, and Mervyn Thomas CMG, Founder President of CSW and Chair of the UK FoRB Forum.Caption: Protesters outside the Nigerian High Commission in London. Credit: CSWCSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “We particularly remember, as we have done so many times on this spot, Leah Sharibu. She is 18 years old now, but she was 14 years old when she was taken by Boko Haram, and she’s now been held for nearly four years for one reason. |
The one reason is she has refused to renounce her faith in Jesus, and so she’s still being held captive. And of course we remember the Chibok girls as part of this campaign… 270 girls who were kidnapped in 2014, and there are still 110 of them missing today. We’re here today to stand in solidarity with them.”Sarah Jane Wilkinson said: “I contrast my education with that of these innocent, defenceless girls and children, who in choosing to pursue an education have been snatched from all they know and all they hold dear to them, being pushed into horrendous, traumatic experiences of life-altering violence, forced labour, rape, slavery, and forced conversions and marriages.
This is a desperate situation and millions of children are paying the price of the government’s failure to protect its citizens from violence.”Speaking at the protest, Lord Alton of Liverpool said the recent surge in mass abductions “mean the lives of Nigerian students generally are being commoditised by armed non-state actors of Fulani ethnicity. Since December 2020, the country has witnessed 14 such attacks on educational establishments… in the northwest and centre, with over 1,100 students abducted for ransom, and at least ten of them have died.”Pastor Fred Williams said: “These attacks are deliberate. They are soft targets. They are intentionally showing their strength. It’s not just kidnappings, it’s not just killings, it’s also a show of power.
It’s political… Kaduna state right now is like the eye of the storm in Nigeria, especially southern Kaduna.” He added “the silence is deafening” in regard to the Nigerian government’s continued failure to address the ongoing crisis in the country.The Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration is currently taking place in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Lord Alton also pointed out that although the first Safe Schools Initiative was launched in Nigeria in May 2014 following the abduction of over 200 girls from their school in Chibok, it appears to have been less of a priority for the current administration: “This year’s theme is: ‘Ensuring Safe Education for All: From Commitment to Practice.’ It is imperative that attendees live up to that commendable aim, by formulating concrete steps to safeguard students and educational establishments which extend to every area where attacks have become commonplace.”UNESCO recommends that governments commit 15 to 20 percent of their national budget to Education. However, for 2021 the Nigerian government allocated 5.6 percent of its budget towards Education, which is reportedly the lowest amount granted to the educational sector in 10 years.
Note to Editors: CSW’s Sing For Freedom campaign runs until 7 November. Members of the public are encouraged to sign a petition and to raise awareness about violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) around the world by joining American gospel artist KB and others in a singing challenge on social media.As part of the Sing for Freedom Campaign CSW in Nigeria held a prayer and praise event on 27 October, International Religious Freedom Day, which was attended by three of the children who were abducted from Bethel Baptist High School. CSW’s partner organization in Latin America, Impulso 18, will be hosting an online event as part of the campaign on 29 October at 8pm EST (1am BST). CSW USA will also host an online event on 29 October.
A petition has also been launched by CSW, the IA-Foundation, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), and the International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice (PSJ-UK) drawing the attention of the British Government to developments in Nigeria with a view towards securing schools.