When we lived in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2005, towards the end of the people’s war, the Maoists planted a bomb outside a rural school. They set a timer for it to go off when the children departed for home at the end of the school day. Thankfully the bomb went off early, and no one was harmed. Even though it was unsuccessful, I’m sure that if an attempt on children’s lives had occurred anywhere in the West, it would have made global headlines. In one of Kathmandu’s daily newspapers, though, it only featured on page three. There was such little interest in the Maoists’ actions and a lack of concern for rural youngsters.
The power of news editors
I tell this story to demonstrate the power that news editors have to describe our world. Their priorities become our priorities. A news story might not be considered worth covering if it doesn’t generate enough clicks, views, or sales income (in the case of newspapers or subscription news services). Hence the term clickbait; headlines that draw us to websites with sometimes dubious tales. News production is a profit-making business, and companies either need to sell news to us or encourage advertisers to back them by demonstrating they have a large audience.
An overlooked crisis
Sadly, this means many important news stories are not reported with the urgency and priority they deserve. One current tragically overlooked crisis is the ongoing and frequent kidnap of people in Nigeria.
#BringBackOurGirls was not the end
In 2014, the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok made international headlines and caused a social media storm with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. Seven years later, those girls are gradually being released, but sadly, many are still missing. In addition, since 2014, there have been countless other abductions of boys, girls, men and women from across the north of Nigeria whose plight hasn’t gained traction on social media. On the main road between Nigeria’s capital Abuja and Kaduna, in the northwest, there were approximately ten kidnappings per day in 2017 and 2018. These numbers are terrifying and continue to strike fear into the heart of everyone who lives in the region.
Initially, many abductions took place in Nigeria’s northeast and were orchestrated by Boko Haram, who sought a deal with the government. Boko Haram offered to free their kidnap victims in exchange for the release of militants. By contrast, in the northwest, there is no terror motive. These gangs of modern-day bandits are primarily made up of landless herdsmen; their desire is to extort heavy ransoms from their victims’ families. Driven by poverty, leaders of these nomadic gangs point out that they are victims of climate change. There is no security for them in traditional herding; hence they have turned to crime. Regretfully, in both these regions, abductions and kidnappings occur daily.
God’s ability to intervene isn’t linked to my knowledge
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems, of which the plague of abductions in Nigeria is just one. As a Christian, I know that God cares for and loves everyone, including the people of Nigeria. These tragedies don’t make headlines in the UK, but that doesn’t mean I should forget about them; prayer can make a difference. Yet, even though I know all this, I often doubt the effect my small prayers can have. I’m so detached from the situation, and if I were to make an effort to find out every possible detail about the latest kidnappings and negotiations, would that mean God would pay more attention to my prayers? Probably not; after all, he knows the details anyway, and His ability to intervene isn’t linked to my knowledge.
It seems I need to find a balance between feeling guilty that I don’t know every detail of a tragic situation and overlooking an issue entirely. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit can help me with this, so I pray that I can better strike this balance. If it helps you, the Global Prayer category on this website (see list below) is one attempt to highlight neglected news stories.
Please join me in praying for Nigeria
Lord, we ask you to:
- End the kidnappings.
- Return children to their families.
- Children would remain safe from kidnap at all times, but especially while at school. Education is vital to breaking the cycle of poverty and violence.
- Provide other sources of income for those who feel crime and extortion and their only options.
- Restore fertile land to these herdsmen. We repent of our abuse of the environment.
- Enable Boko Haram to put down their arms and seek peace in tandem with the government of Nigeria.
- Provide wise and Godly leaders at every level of administration and government.
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