The brutal abduction of several hundred Nigerian schoolgirls has stunned and outraged the world. A violent organization called Boko Haram, and its leader Abubakar Shekau, took credit for the kidnapping more than 300 female students from their classrooms at gunpoint, from a government-run school in Chibok, on April 14. In his subsequent video, the smiling terrorist leader told the world they would sell the teenage girls “into the marketplace” or forced marriages; in his latest, he claims the girls have converted to Islam. Shekau has claimed that God told him to do all of this. That is a lie. It is an abomination. It is a blasphemy against God, and people of faith from all traditions should denounce his words.
Invoking the name of God to justify human barbarity is a painfully tragic and an ongoing occurrence. If hearing these lies about God breaks our hearts, we can only imagine they must also break the heart of God. As the Qur’an warns, “Who is more unjust than he who lies against God?” This kind of blasphemy often derives from extreme religious fanaticism that can be found in all of our faith traditions — those who pervert, abuse, and use the language of religion for fear, hate, and power. These self-proclaimed religious leaders must be utterly denounced as false and human abominations of religion and must be publically condemned and held accountable by faith communities around the world.
Beyond that, the abduction of these girls is an abomination because, in the Christian tradition, they are also image bearers of God; in the Muslim tradition, they are also vicegerents, or trustees of God and as such cannot be treated not as slaves or property. We blaspheme God when we claim that more than half of God’s creation is lesser and that it pleases the Divine to subjugate them.
So how should we respond to such lying, hateful, and violent figures? As a Christian and a Muslim, we believe in a God who hears and answers prayer, a God of justice. People of faith everywhere should pray against the work of these men. As two leaders from two faith communities, we call upon all people of faith to enter into an international vigil of prayer for the Nigerian schoolgirls who have been brutally ripped away from their families. We must pray for their safety and rescue and for the courage of world governments and international organizations to do whatever is necessary to find them and return them to the arms of their loved ones. We should also pray for the capture and bringing to justice of the barbaric criminals who have abducted these girls and violated their human dignity. And we should pray for God’s judgment upon these violent perpetrators who dishonor the name of God and pervert the character of their own religion.
So we call upon our brothers and sisters of faith — from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and every religious tradition, and people still seeking God to commit to PRAY — in a continuing vigil for these young Nigerian sisters.
1. We pray for the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who are still missing and may be assaulted and abused. We pray for them by name, one by one, and most of their names can be found here.
2. We pray for the Nigerian government, other governments in the region, and international organizations on the ground there to take the courageous decisions and whatever risks necessary to find and rescue these girls.
3. We pray for the United Nations to take whatever actions are necessary to save these girls.
4. We pray for our own governments, and for American citizens, the United States government; to join with Nigerian and African forces to find and rescue these girls.
5. We pray that these violent perpetrators will be captured and brought to justice — all those who ordered or participated in these barbarous acts.
6. We pray together and denounce the false and blasphemous religious justifications for such despicable deeds.
7. And we pray together for God’s judgment, in God’s own way and time, on the souls of those who so dishonor the name of God and dishonor the religious traditions they falsely claim.
We believe in prayer — that prayer draws human attention to things that need our attention, and that God hears our prayers, which can work to change human events and history. It is time to for an international and continuous prayer vigil for the young Nigerian schoolgirls who have been kidnapped out of school for abuse. We must pray for these particular girls and also that this event and moment could draw our attention and our hearts to see how God is using educated and empowered women and girls to change the world. We believe God is doing that, and those who oppose that are indeed the enemies of God. Let us pray.
Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided will be released in paperback this spring. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis. Dalia Mogahed is chairman and CEO of Mogahed Consulting and former Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. She is co-author with John L. Esposito of Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Follow Dalia on Twitter @dmogahed.
Image: Hudreds gather at Union Square in New York City on May 3 to demand the release of Nigerian schoolgirls, by Michael Fleshman / Flickr.com