Reform Movement Responds to Kidnapping of Schoolgirls in Nigeria

May 13, 2014Judy Silver Weisberg

Rabbi David Saperstein’s statement on the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria was quoted in the Jerusalem Post.  You can read the full article here.

Several weeks ago, Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group whose name means “Western education is sinful” operating in Nigeria, kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from their school.  To date, most of the girls are still missing.  The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, released a video in which he stated that he planned to sell the young women.

In response to this horrific event, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We join millions around the world in expressing our horror and condemnation at the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the militant group Boko Haram.  This is just the most recent of the many violent acts Boko Haram has perpetrated in recent years, including attacks on schools, churches, and mosques whose clerics have spoken out against religious extremism. The depravity of the recent mass abduction, and the public claims made by Boko Haram’s leader that the girls will be sold, reaches new depths of inhumanity. That these attacks have been carried out in the name of religion makes them even more troubling.

Acts of violence committed in the name of religion reflect the basest instincts of humanity and remind us that religious intolerance remains a threat to peace and stability around the world today. The great medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides teaches us that “There is no greater mitzvah than redeeming the captive for the problems of the captive include being hungry, thirsty, unclothed, and they are in danger of their lives too.”  Today, we are acutely aware of our obligation to help redeem the captives.  We call on Boko Haram to release their captives unharmed; we urge all people and nations of conscience to do whatever possible to secure the girls’ release; and we continue to pray for their well-being and freedom.

On Monday, Nigeria rejected the leader of Boko Haram’s offer to release the girls in exchange for the release of prisoners held by the Nigerian government.  Over the weekend, Nigeria accepted Israel’s offer to assist in finding the abducted girls.  Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had “briefed Mr. Netanyahu on actions already being taken by Nigeria’s armed forces and security agencies to locate and rescue the girls, [and said] that Nigeria would be pleased to have Israel’s globally acknowledged anti-terrorism expertise deployed to support its ongoing operations.”

As we continue to pray for the safe return of the more than 200 abducted girls, we are encouraged by the international attention that has been given to this important issue.

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