Forgetting to Remember

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IT’S BEEN A YEAR AND … NOTHING!  It was all the rage back then, nicely summed up in a hashtag – #bringbackourgirls. A year ago this week, April 14th, the sounds of gunfire near a village in northern Nigeria woke hundreds of girls at a boarding school, filling them with fear. Many were spirited away by the militant group Boko Haram. Naturally, they were terrified.

A global response quickly developed that channeled the outrage at such an occurrence. News of the girls’ fate was everywhere. The hashtag became universal. Governments promised action, including Nigeria’s, and the media were all over it. Individuals and groups around the world picked up the cause.

And then they dropped it. In a world where events are reported by the second, it was just too difficult for those interested in the fate of the schoolgirls to stay focused and they moved on to other causes – not all, but most.

So, what’s changed in a year? Almost nothing concerning their fate, but the bungles and failures in the effort to assist them have been significant. Three months after they were taken, U. S. surveillance planes spotted the girls but they couldn’t be located a short while later. The Nigerian government warned the international community that any effort to rescue the girls could risk their lives. Boko Haram released a notice that some of the girls would become wives to their fighters.

Incredibly, the Nigerian government paid a Washington public relations firm $1.2 million to help them “change the channel” regarding the fate of the abducted girls and the firm took them up on it. Weeks after their abduction, the United States, Canada, France, the UK, and Israel sent in special forces but the girls couldn’t be found. And then, only last month, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS, spreading even more alarm about the girls’ safety.

All of this in just one year – all to no avail. But one, or rather, 58 stories of hope emerged from all the failure and tragedy. Shortly after being taken a year ago, 21 of the young women escaped and were granted scholarships to the American University of Nigeria. The university offered the opportunity and others around the world donated to the cause. One of the escapees, Sarah, told her story but then turned it into a larger narrative:

“We have not been broken by the attack. We see ourselves as the people who have been chosen to make positive future changes not just in our village Chibok, but in our country and the world.”

The world must never give up in their search for the others, and the need to help them rebuild their lives once discovered. And yet they have already been mostly forgotten. As David Campbell has written: “Discipline is the remembering of what we truly wish to see.”

We can’t let these women fade out of mind. One of the ways to accomplish that could be to help those that escaped  and are attempting to rebuild their lives by making new memories. If you want to help them, go to http://aunf.org. That small act alone could keep the plight of the others alive in our minds.