On April 15, 2014, almost 300 girls were abducted by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram from a school in Nigeria. While this may not be news to many, as it has been a story flashing on media outlets for weeks, it is still powerful and frightening. People across the world have been outraged by the abduction and many have used social media and the hash tag #bringbackourgirls to raise a unified voice in protest. The United States and other countries have reached out to Nigeria and are finally allowed to assist in the recovery of the girls. Unfortunately, it has been over a month since the abduction and many fear the extremists have started to sell the girls into marriage.
One aspect of this story that is most striking is how unified and widespread the outcry has been in the international community. Yet, quite a few people in the news and on social media have raised the point – why is this story of 300 abducted garnering so much attention when many more horrific occurrences have taken place?
Honestly, this is a good point, but there is a valid reason the story has caused such a massive reaction. People are not discrediting or ignoring the tragedies and atrocities that are occurring across the globe. The civil war in Syria, the encroachment of Russia on Ukraine, the attack on the Kenyan shopping mall, famine across the globe and civil rights violations in numerous countries – these are just as significant, if not more horrific than the abduction. Even in Nigeria there have been numerous killings over ethnic and political lines for years by the Islamist group.
But there is one factor that makes this story powerful – child abduction is a fear that is universally translatable. Many can understand the fear for helpless children, of a parent losing a child, of young girls being controlled and abused by grown men. These fears can be grasped and understood by almost anyone – no matter the difference in nationality, religion, language or social standing.
In contrast, the immense amount of violence over political and religious controversy is so expansive and so prevalent in the media that many people are conditioned to expect it. Few are surprised to hear of war, of hunger and death in far away countries.
While the various global events going on are horrific and such “conditioning,” is disconcerting, there is hope. Just as the story of the Nigerian school girls has caught global attention, we can continue to build on being part of an international community. Technology has enabled us to exchange news and maintain connections all across the globe – we are forever entwined.
With this ever growing interconnectedness comes a more defined sense of responsibility. As an international community we should continue to set standards and work together so every person has the same rights and liberties that American citizens are born with.
No, the US does not have to play babysitter – that is not its job, nor is it qualified to oversee the rest of the world by itself. But as an international community we can work together to support and help each other.
Countries do not have to agree or even understand the ways of other countries, but mutual respect and an understanding of the basic fact we are ALL humans can go a long way. So as an American citizen, as a human, as a woman, as a part of this international community I ask – bring back OUR girls.