The Herald (Harare)

9 May 2014

African Church Leaders Call for Release of Girls Abducted By Boko Haram

THE Council of African Apostles (CAA), an assembly of eminent Christian church leaders from sub-Saharan Africa, chaired by Zimbabwe's prominent church leader, Bishop Tudor Bismark of New Life Covenant Church, yesterday released a statement strongly condemning the recent abduction of more than 230 school girls by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the village of Chibok, Borno State, in northeast Nigeria.

Below is the full text of the CAA's statement:

The recent abduction of more than 230 school girls in Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram are deplorable acts of terrorism that are affecting innocent lives who have no role whatsoever in the conflict or grievances that militant group has against the Federal government of Nigeria. This and the other related callous acts of terror that have been undertaken by Boko Haram in the recent past should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

The reports that they are being sold off into marriage for US$12 and that others have died of snake bites only serve to make the call for their return urgent - they should not have been touched by this conflict in the first place.

We, the Council of African Apostles, join others in saying enough to acts of terror; bring our children back alive and not in body bags.

None of these girls have any role in whatever conflict that Boko Haram has against the Federal Government of Nigeria. As a body of believers, we uphold and recommit to the principle of diversity, but that diversity cannot lead to divergence that overtakes the sanctity of human life.

Today we join hands with community leaders in northern Nigeria and other concerned parties and strongly call for the return of these girls to their homes.

We call upon the Federal Government of Nigeria to exercise real leadership over this matter and use every disposable means it has to ensure that these girls are reunited with their families within the shortest possible time.

Beyond the safe return of the girls we are also calling for the government to engage Boko Haram and find a peaceful solution to immediately end this violence that has claimed many innocent lives that otherwise have no stake in whatever issues that are currently under contestation.

At this moment, we are also calling for leaders from different faith groups to have a dialogue and especially for leadership from the Muslim faith to strongly disassociate themselves from these cowardly acts of terror being carried (out) in the name of their religion.

We also call upon the global community, including Ecowas, Africa Union Commission, the United Nations, the G8 countries to step in and provide necessary support to the Federal Government of Nigeria to effectively deal with these acts of terror.

The unnecessary loss of lives (Christian or Muslim) is not only barbaric and deplorable; it cannot be tolerated in the twenty-first century and must surely end. We think such methods of harming innocent lives are cowardly, only serve to worsen tension and conflict and belong to the dustbins of history with no role whatsoever in resolving grievances.

As a body Apostles from all over Africa, we are motivated by God's call to peace, personal integrity, righteous governance, accountability, and goodness.

We believe in a God who guarantees dignity for all people. These recent attacks have placed a dark cloud over the peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims, deeply wounding the conscience of those who uphold human life and also leading to a deterioration of public trust and tolerance of different opinions.

It is our expectation that the perpetrators of these crimes will face the full extent of governing laws and that there be swift justice for the affected and in this case an immediate return of the 230 girls to their homes unharmed. We urge the United Nations, the African Union, national governments and other relevant institutions to demonstrate visible leadership in ensuring that justice is served by bringing perpetrators to book and also taking necessary precautions to restore law and order in the affected regions.

We extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to the affected families and stand in solidarity with them, assuring them of our continued prayers that our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ would be their Comfort in this time of questioning, grief and loss. We prayerfully stand with you for the return of your children and also the return of peace to your community.

May the God of Heaven continue to look kindly upon Nigeria and Africa and give grace to us all.

Other members of the Council of African Apostles include Dr. Mensa Otabil (Ghana), Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams (Ghana), Bishop Enock Sitima (Botswana), Bishop Mike Okonkwo (Nigeria), Bishop Joe Imakando (Zambia) amongst others.

The CAA's vision is "to be the voice and the centre of spiritual resources of Africans to address the dynamics of human need in Africa and for Africans." - CAA/HR.

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