Prayers and vigils for Chibok girls in days before the first anniversary

Chibok girls, Girls' education

Some of the Chibok girls in Boko Haram video

Vigils, marches and other events are being held across the world this week to mark the first anniversary since the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls.

Special church services were held across the country today and prayers said for the missing girls, who were snatched from their school in Chibok on April 14 last year by Boko Haram.

The #BringBackOurGirls group held a march in the Nigerian capital Abuja as part of a week of events culminating on the anniversary date. Dr Oby Ezekweseli – one of the group’s leaders and a former Nigerian education minister – said: “We believe that they can be rescued. We have cities all over the world remembering these girls. The red ribbons we tie on the poles is a reminder that our Chibok girls are not back. People want to move on. But we refuse to move on.

“Our Chibok girls are somewhere. We believe that with military effort and our collaboration with the world, we must find them. Their parents have not lost hope. They believe that the girls will be rescued and we are keeping up with this hope, that they will be brought back to their families alive.”

The church services followed special Jumat prayers offered in Nigerian mosques on Friday for the Chibok girls to come back safely to their families and for peace to be restored in the country’s northeast. The 219 girls still missing were taken from the Government Girls Secondary at Chibok in Borno state, which is part of that troubled region.

#BringBackOur girls vigil held in the capital Abuja

Schools in Nigeria are being called on to organise marches under the Global School Girl March slogan. At the same time the Chibok Girls Ambassadors – schoolgirls aged 10 to 18 who have volunteered their time in support – will be joined in a campaign across the globe by A World at School’s Global Youth Ambassadors, who will organise vigils in support of the girls.

The Empire State Building in New York will be lit purple and red to mark the anniversary.

On April 14, there will be marches and vigils in many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Chile.

The following day, Oyekoya Yemi (pictured above) hopes to arrive in the Nigerian city of Lagos after cycling from Abidjan in Ivory Coast in 15 days to raise awareness of the missing girls and to mark the anniversary. When he set off, he said: “This ride will be as emotionally draining as it is physical but so worthwhile.Whatever is to be done to #BringBackOurGirls must be done.”

Last week three of the world’s leading children’s education campaigners wrote an open letter demanding the release of the Chibok girls. Joint Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarth, along with United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, made a plea to the international community to keep up the fight to free the girls and to create more safe schools for education free of fear.

You can make world leaders hear your voice by signing the #UpForSchool Petition, which demands they keep to their promise of education for all, free from danger and discrimination.

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