Vatican calls for release of kidnapped Nigerian girls

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman, briefs reporters on Monday (Feb. 24) about the new department Pope Francis created to overhaul the Holy See's finances. RNS photo by David Gibson

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican issued an urgent appeal Thursday (May 8) for the release of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman, briefs reporters on Monday (Feb. 24) about the new department Pope Francis created to overhaul the Holy See's finances. RNS photo by David Gibson

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, shown speaking to reporters in February, issued an appeal this week for release of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Religion News Service file photo by David Gibson

The abduction of the young girls three weeks ago was the latest instance of the “horrible forms of violence” for which the militant Islamic group has become known in Nigeria, said the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

“The denial of any kind of respect for life and for the dignity of human beings, even the most innocent, vulnerable and defenseless, calls for the strongest condemnation,” Lombardi said.

He added that the kidnappings aroused the most heartfelt feelings of compassion for the victims and a sense of horror for the physical and spiritual suffering and the incredible humiliation they have suffered.

READ: What is Boko Haram?

“We hope and pray that Nigeria, thanks to the commitment of all who are in a position to help, may find the way to end the situation of conflict and hateful terrorism which is a source of incalculable suffering,” he said.

Nigerian Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan said Wednesday (May 7) that his country was shocked and shamed by the kidnappings.

Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, the archbishop of Abuja, pictured in March, 2013.

Photo courtesy of Mtande, via Wikimedia Commons

Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan,  archbishop of Abuja, pictured in March 2013.

The girls were abducted by heavily armed militants from a boarding school in the northern town of Chibok, provoking condemnation from around the world. There were also reports that 11 other girls were kidnapped from a second school Tuesday (May 6).

The kidnappings and subsequent threat by Boko Haram’s leader to “sell” the schoolgirls have overshadowed a meeting of the World Economic Forum that opened in the Nigerian city of Abuja late Wednesday.

The U.S., England and France have dispatched teams of experts to Nigeria in a bid to help rescue the girls.


About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • This atrocity is another reason why God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44) will soon intervene in man’s affairs worldwide and put an end to all wicked ones (Psalm 37:10,11; Matthew 5:5), so that only the meek will inherit the earth and enjoy the “real life” we were meant to have since our original parents were created by God. In addition, all sickness and disease, old age and death will be done away with (Revelation 21:1-4).

  • Why didn’t he intervene following any of the other atrocities that have been occurring regularly for as long as mankind has been a species? He didn’t “put an end to all the wicked ones” after the Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking, but a couple hundred kidnapped girls is going to spring him into action?

  • There are a number of reasons to answer your questions and they come from God’s Word, the Bible, as follows: (1) Effects of bad government. Proverbs 29:2 says: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” History is full of examples of dictators and selfish and greedy rulership, even today. (2) Influence of false religion. Jesus said at John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.” Religion often contributes to division, bigotry and strife among people instead of helping to cultivate love. It also condones things that are not condoned by God, such as premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality. (3) Human imperfection and selfish desires. All of us, because of imperfection, are prone to errors and mistakes and for “the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3). Romans 8:22 says: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” This is certainly evident in our world now!! (4) Power of wicked spirits. Satan is the god of this world who “hath blinded the minds of them which believeth not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 2 Corinthians 4:4. Apostle Paul confirmed this at Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (5) We are living in the last days of an era (not the end of the earth and mankind). Some 2,000 years ago, the Bible foretold: “This know also, that in the last days, perilous days shall come. For men will be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce,despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.” Such is our world today and it keeps getting worse, in spite of man’s governments. These are the reasons why humans are unable to put an end to suffering, despite good intentions. The reasons why God has allowed wickedness until our day will be explained in my next post.

  • The answers as to why God has allowed wickedness goes back to what happened to our first parents, Adam and Eve. Both of them were tested as to their faith and obedience to God when he told them that: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17). Satan the Devil, through the use of a serpent, lied to Eve and said she would not die but that they would become like God, knowing good from bad (Genesis 3:1-5). Eve proceeded to take the fruit and eat of it and gave it to Adam as well, and he ate of it, both disobeying God and introducing sin into the world. Romans 5:12 says: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.” A very important issue was brought up at that time.. Satan challenged God’s right to rule over mankind as well as well as the rightness of that rule. Satan basically was saying “let man become independent of God and let him do his own thing.” We can see the results of that today. People say that God was cruel when he unleashed a flood in Noah’s day and there was only Noah and his family who survived. Yes, he intervened in those days because “the earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11). But does God delight in the death of the wicked ones? Ezekiel 33:11 says: “Say unto them, As I live, saith the LORD God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways,for why will ye die, O house of Israel.” The reason God brought such judgments against ungodly persons in the past was because he was “making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly.” (2 Peter 2:5,6). God showed that even though it pains him to destroy people, he does take note of cruel people who cause suffering and holds them accountable for their actions, especially if they do not repent and turn their lives around. God also lovingly warned people before executing judgment. Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), but most people ignored him (Matthew 24.39). Many times God sent prophets to the nation of Israel to warn them, again and again to change their course before it was too late. We live in a very violent world, and there is still time for the wicked ones to repent and turn around to live. But those who do not do so will face God’s judgment, or eternal death (Psalm 37:10,11). Another reason that time has been required is that Jesus had to be born as a perfect human, become the Messiah, and his priority was teaching the good news of God’s heavenly kingdom. “From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus also gave his life as a perfect man, a ransom sacrifice so that we may be forgiven of our sins and as a basis to do away with sin and imperfection, giving mankind eternal life in the near future (John 17:3). John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” In addition, the first-century Christians, including the apostles, have a heavenly hope to serve in God’s kingdom with Christ Jesus. As Revelation 20:6 brings out: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years”. The Bible identifies this number as 144,000 who are bought from the earth (Revelation 14:1-5), and are the only ones from earth who have a heavenly hope (Luke 12:32), referred to by Jesus as a “little flock”, certainly a small number when compared to all mankind. Since Pentecost 33 C.E., when Christians were anointed with Holy Spirit, God has been selecting those who will make up the “little flock”, also referred to as the “bride of Christ” (Revelation 21:2). That is another reason why time has been required. Our timetable is different from God’s, since he had no beginning and will have no end (Psalm 90:2), and we have a beginning and usually an end. God’s purpose was for man to live forever on earth, and he has not changed his mind. His purpose will take place. 2 Peter 3:8 also says: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the LORD as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Thus, Adam lived 930 years before he died (Genesis 5:5), well within the “day of his dying” referenced at Genesis 2:17. Another reason that some time was required was because of Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, and then the end shall come.” That preaching work is now being accomplished worldwide so that when the end of this violent era comes, everyone will need to make a choice…that of being “for” or “against” God’s kingdom or rule, which kingdom will bring outstanding benefits to all mankind.

  • Obama and his fellow cowards from England and France dispatched “Teams of Experts” to the area???? What does THAT mean?

    Baby, those poor, raped girls don’t need “Experts.” They don’t need platitudes and speeches. Those girls are being sold for as little as 12 dollars apiece. They need a REAL MAN right now!!!

    Those girls need a LEADER somewhere on this planet, a head of state (or even a fancy dressed Cardinal!) who will buy the WEAPONS, buy the SOLDIERS, buy the STINGER MISSILES, and and then burn every single Boko-brain rapist idiot right out of the Sambisa Forest unless they deliver every single girl UNHARMED within two (2) hours, not one second more.

    Reagan would have done it in just one hour. Dubya would have done it by the time you finished reading this post. So where’s that Obama dude? He’s NOT stepping up at all !! No wonder Putin owns him.

    Those Nigerian girls are doomed. Their lives are ruined. Can’t get anywhere in Nigeria without college education, and it’s hard to go to college when you are a sex slave to a Boko rapist or whatever animal he sold you to. Where’s a president when you need one?

  • Now conservatives pay attention to the rest of the world? Did you guys finally lose the Ron Paul Isolationist morons once and for all? If so, its about time.

    If it makes you feel any better, we are probably droning the crap out of them Yemen-style as we speak.

  • When Dubya was president, we WERE paying attention to the rest of the world. Even Darfur mattered (well, a little bit anyway).

    But you see what that got Dubya, Larry. Obama and the Demmies effectively exploited and worsened American isolationist sentiments, blamed Bush for everything no matter who else previously agreed with him, and scored lots of political victory from it.

    So now the nation is awash in isolationism. Anything other than NYC getting nuked, we don’t even care. It’s now taboo to even suggest sending in 10,000 Marines and scrubbing that Sambisa Forest in one wash. Those 300 innocent Nigerian girls don’t stand a chance, they’re dog chow, and even THEY know that America don’t care.

    (They’re just the wrong color, it seems.)

  • If W was president now he would be attacking anywhere but Nigeria. Someplace he thinks would be a pushover. Like he did with Iraq.

    My fault with him was not that he invaded another country to combat the terrorists, its that he invaded the wrong one. We should have been in Yemen, Nigeria, or Sudan in 2003 instead of Iraq. As for the Democrats, they had a point and it took the US seven years to get it taken seriously, Iraq was a useless boondoggle where we had no business being there.

    Its only due to partisan derangement that isolationism has become all consuming. You have the Libertarian and “anything to embarrass the Dems” morons on the right and the useless “but what about national sovereignty and self-determination” morons on the left.

    Doc, our military has been cut to the bone so much since 1990 and with the obligations elsewhere, the US probably doesn’t have the 10,000 soldiers to spare on Nigeria. A country whose own military has redefined hapless and corrupt. Besides, don’t the British usually get their hands dirty when it comes to troubles in Anglophone Africa?

    I hear ya loud and clear. We should be using our forces to take out these guys. We also should be doing it with a little cooperation with our friends who have more experience in the region as well. (cough cough UK, and France).

  • As usual, my question is: exactly who is the Vatican addressing? They’re not saying anything different than anyone else, just words released into the ether as it were; I’m sure they’re brimming with”moral authority”at this point! NOT!!! I sincerely doubt this so-called”Boko Haram”group gives a rat’s behind about the Vatican; if anyone can appeal to them (And that’s a BIG if), it would be respected Islamlc scholars.So…Where are they?

  • ” if anyone can appeal to them…it would be respected Islamlc scholars”

    I beg to differ. Boko Haram do appear to share some similarities with other groups holding ‘jihadi’ and takfiri world views, evidenced by their former leader Mohammed Yusuf being influenced by the edicts of classical scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah(1263 – 1328 CE). However being a card carrying Salafist or even a ‘jihadi’ might not be enough to gain their respect or even a hearing, because it is apparently also their view that they are the one true sect of Islam which was prophesised during the time of Muhammad(sa). In other words, they believe they’re the chosen ones and all other Muslims are heretics. This might explain why Nigerian Muslims, including those with religious authority have been targets.

    My own view is that they should be regarded and dealt with like the criminals and gangsters that they are. If reports are correct that their recent expansion has incorporated (non religious) criminal and disaffected political elements, perhaps for mutual benefit, then the effectiveness of like minded religious persuasion is dubious at best.

  • There are no checks and balances in religion. This is why I am no believer in god.
    Anyone can do whatever they want and they will find support in a holy book. People should not be surprised at the hell it creates. Religious people always say, ‘but where will you get morality from if you are a non believer? Well, i wonder if they read the news? God-given morality is the most immoral thing invented by humanity.