Having kids has a way of changing the way you look at things.
Sometimes it emerges in silly ways, like suddenly not being able to make it through a movie like Saving Mr. Banks without letting a few tears slip out.
Other times, it’s more serious.
Like when I turn on CNN and hear about more than 200 Nigerian girls being ripped out of their homes and threatened with slavery simply because they want to get an education. How do you even respond to someone who says,
I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.
My heart breaks for the parents of these girls and all I can think about is, “What if that was my daughter that had been kidnapped?”
I can’t even imagine how I would respond. Probably somewhere between unbridled anger and utter heartbreak. But this isn’t a theoretical exercise for the parents of these little girls. Hundreds of Nigerian parents are going through the unimaginable right now as they wait to learn the fate of their children.
Children they may never see again.
To make an unbelievably abhorrent situation worse, there is little these parents can do to help their little ones. For if they act or even speak up on their children’s behalf, they risk the kidnappers making good on their promise to sell their children into slavery or worse, kill them.
Horror feels like an understatement.
And yet the outrage has been muted – especially in the church. As many others have pointed out, it’s hard not to think that if 200 girls in Pennsylvania had been kidnapped and threatened with slavery that our collective reaction would be deafening. But I’m willing to bet there was no candlelight vigil at your church this weekend (there wasn’t at mine) and that few people you talked to on Sunday morning said a word about the crisis in Nigeria (we weren’t talking about it at my church).
Why is it this way?
The easy answer is Nigeria is out of sight and out of mind. The harder answer is we tend (whether intentionally or not) to care less about people who don’t look and sound like we do. The even harder answer is we having a growing problem in the church when it comes to children in need.
From the ease with which we abandoned more than 10,000 World Vision sponsored kids to the relative silence from church leaders on the crisis in Nigeria, we’re beginning to develop a disturbing track record in the church when it comes to children in need. Too often they are reduced to pawns in our ideological battles or props for the mission trip selfies we post on Facebook.
We absolutely must change course.
Now, the commodification of the least of these is disturbing enough as a matter of basic decency and humanity, but as Christians our response or lack thereof of is doubly problematic.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, for the kingdom of God is made of such as these.” But when we abandon and ignore children in need – no matter the reason – our response to Jesus’ command is resounding “no.”
We have to do better.
We can do better.
We must do better.
Innocent children simply cannot be left to suffer alone.
And when it comes to Nigeria in particular, we need to remember that as people made in the image of God, those little girls who have been kidnapped aren’t just the children of strangers on the other side of the world. They’re family.
Which means they’re our girls too.
We can’t stay silent while they suffer.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably heartbroken, but don’t know what to do. There’s no charity to give to or place to go and donate your time and obviously you can’t hop on a plane to Nigeria and free the girls yourself.
But there are small ways you can act that collectively can make a difference if we all work together.
First, if you’re not familiar with this situation and everything that’s going on in Nigeria, I encourage you to check out my friend Kristen Howerton’s post. She has an excellent breakdown of everything that has happened in Nigeria that will help you better explain to others why they should care.
Next, sign this White House petition. It’s a simple and easy thing to do, but if “we the people” speak with one voice, we can compel our government to act. Or if you can take the extra step and go further, call your U.S. Senator or member of the House and implore them to intervene.
If you’re on social media, use the hashtag #bringbackourgirls to help bring attention to the crisis. I know hashtags feel like slacktivism, and they very much can be. But social media has the unique ability to allow everyday people like you and me to work together to create conversations, stir passion, and move people (and governments) to action in unprecedented ways that can bring about real change in the world.
And, finally, if there is any other way you know of that we can raise awareness about this horrific situation and compel our leaders to act, share it with me, share it with your friends, share it with your pastor, share it with whoever you can.
More than 200 girls are being held captive in Nigeria right now, not sure if tomorrow will bring a reunion with their parents or a lifetime of slavery.
We may not be able to liberate them ourselves, but we can compel those who can to action.
So speak up, speak loudly, and don’t stop speaking until we #bringbackourgirls