A Nigerian newspaper has published a list of the nearly 180 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militants more than three weeks ago. The identities of the teenage girls, now enslaved by their captors, include names like: Comfort, Blessing, Grace, and Glory.
The list—also published by the Christian advocacy group Barnabas Fund—indicates 164 of the girls are Christians and 16 are Muslims. Militants from the Islamist terror group Boko Haram kidnapped the girls on April 15.
PUNCH newspaper reported that Nigerian pastor Mathew Owojaiye of the Christian Association of Nigeria listed the names in a document on Wednesday. The pastor later told the newspaper that the association hadn’t endorsed publication of the document that included the pastor’s personal comments about the abductions.
Still, the list of names adds another heartbreaking layer to the tragedy unfolding in Nigeria. Earlier this week, the leader of Boko Haram announced in a video that the group planned to sell the girls as slaves: “I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off. … Women are slaves. I want to reassure my Muslim brothers that Allah says slaves are permitted in Islam.” Since then, the group has abducted another eight girls.
The violence continued on Wednesday, as militants launched another attack on a trading town near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon—near the area where authorities believe militants fled with the schoolgirls. Gunmen opened fire in a crowded market, tossed bombs into houses, and burned shopkeepers alive. Authorities confirmed at least 100 dead, but local residents expect the number could reach 300.
The horrific raid offers a trademark example of the kind of campaign Boko Haram has waged across northern Nigeria for the last five years. The group aims to enforce Islamic law across the region, and promises to kill anyone opposing its efforts. The organization has kept its promise, killing at least 1,500 this year alone, often in predominantly Christian villages.
The Obama administration announced this week it would send U.S. personnel to Nigeria to help the military search for the missing schoolgirls, but nearly a month after the abductions, rescue efforts grow more complex, and families grow more desperate.
Barnabas Fund urged supporters to use the newly published list of names to pray for each missing girl. “We weep with these girls and their families at this utterly dreadful time and cry out to the Lord that they will be returned unharmed,” said Patrick Sookhdeo, the group’s director. “Please remember each one in prayer.”