Mothers hope to bring world attention to Nigerian kidnappings

A group gathered in Farragut Square on Friday to draw attention to the situation in Nigeria. (WTOP/Michelle Murillo)

Michelle Murillo, WTOP.coom

WASHINGTON — A vigil in Farragut Square hopes to keep the spotlight on the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria.

The goal of the vigil was to bring attention to the international community as well as the Nigerian Government.

“It’s not just Boko Haram. There are other elements within the society that allows Boko Haram to act with such impunity,” said Aniedi Okure, executive director of the African Faith and Justice Network. “Boko Haram has been terrorizing Nigeria since 2009 and killing people, over 5,000 people killed. The government seems unwilling or not capable to do anything. I think it’s more no political will to do it because it has a formidable military.”

Okure believes political corruption is keeping the Nigerian government from doing what is right, and hopes vigils like this one will spur them into action.

“We think a gathering like this will put the spotlight on the government to do something about it to protect the rights of Nigerian citizens,” he said.

In the audience were mothers who said the thought of having their children stolen is unthinkable.

“When I think about it, my heart drops to my toes. I can’t imaging sleeping at night when your child is missing. I can’t imagine not having any idea where your child is. I cannot imagine somebody taking your child for no reason,” said Lydia Levy, with a voice that trembled as she thought about it. “It’s breaking my heart.”

Another mother, who has twin teenage daughters, was Emira Woods, the co-director of Foreign Policy and Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.

“I am a mother, this is Mother’s Day weekend. I can’t even begin to tell you how heart wrenching it is to think about other mothers facing this horrific incident,” she said.

But, she hopes the vigil will help put pressure on those who need to be held accountable for what has happened.

“I believe vigils like this show that the world is paying attention. It shows that people of conscience around the world are standing up, using their voices, are standing in solidarity. That without a doubt is being heard.”

And she believes vigils can work to bring about change, “That’s what has changed the world from the days of the slave trade to the anti-apartheid struggle. It was people taking to the streets saying enough is enough. So vigils like this, without a doubt, carry weight. They show that people around the world are standing up to demand a better world.”

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