A year after the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria, the leader of the country's bishops said there is still hope that they will be returned.
"Our thoughts go to the girls and their families," said Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, president of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria, as reported by Fides.
The girls were taken from a high school in Chibok in the north of Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Their plight drew international attention, including a social media campaign for their return that brought the participation of US First Lady Michelle Obama.
The archbishop lamented, "One year after their abduction we do not know where the girls are. It is a deep pain for the families whose daughters disappeared suddenly without a trace. I can imagine their anguish. But they are not alone, because the whole community and Nigerian families are with them."
The Nigerian bishops' leader expressed his dismay that after a year, "very little has been achieved: not only the girls have not been released but nothing is known about their fate," and this despite commitments made by the Nigerian government and the international community.
"On the other hand we are grateful for the progress made in recent months in terms of the recovery of territorial control from Boko Haram, whose activities are now limited," said the archbishop. "What is important now is to intensify efforts to track down the girls. The new government has promised to do more. The President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, is a former senior official who knows the military and intelligence issues very well. We hope to be able to outline a strategy to defeat Boko Haram and bring home the kidnapped girls."
Buhari was elected the president of Nigeria last month, beating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. The former military dictator will be inaugurated May 29 and Nigerians are hopeful that he will be able to defeat Boko Haram and its reign of terror over the northeast of the country.