About 30 people, most of Nigerian descent, rallied Saturday at the State Capitol to call attention to the plight of more than 275 girls held captive by a terrorist group that abducted the girls from a Nigerian boarding school on April 15.
The actions of the group Boko Haram have drawn condemnation from around the world, and some local community leaders said they wanted to add their voices as well.
“These girls are little children trying to make the best out of life for a better future and one individual with a terrorist group is trying to destroy the life of our youth and the future of the world and we will not be a part of that,” said Dr. Ayodeji O. Famuyide, a Baton Rouge physical therapist and organizer of the rally.
Wearing red shirts that read “#BringBackOurGirls, Stop Terrorism,” Famuyide and members of several local Nigerian community organization urged others to speak out against Boko Haram and in support of reuniting the girls with their families.
Famuyide said he and family members attended boarding schools in Nigeria as youths, though in a different part of the country, and know all too well the threat posed by militants.
“It’s very horrific for a young child going through this experience at this stage of their life,” he said. “We want to show them our compassion, we are there with them, we are there for them and we sympathize with what they are going through.”
American and British forces have been deployed to Nigeria to help the government locate the group and the Chinese, French and Spanish governments have also voiced their support and cooperation.
Several bombings and massacres in northeastern Nigeria over the last few years have been attributed to Boko Haram, including a bridge bombing Monday that left as many as 300 dead.
Dr. Rufus Nwogu, one of the speakers and president of the Igbo Union of Baton Rouge, said the world must no longer think that the kidnappings and bloodshed are simply a Nigerian problem, but rather are a larger human rights issue because they have been occurring more frequently in West African countries such as Ghana and Ethiopia.
“The 276 girls have really given it a face, and now everybody is now coming together to fight this because it can happen to anybody’s child,” Nwogu said.
Boko Haram’s leader has said he might sell the girls into slavery, a threat that Nwogu and others at Saturday’s rally denounced.
“Real men don’t sell girls,” Nwogu said. “Real men don’t buy either.”
The group opened the rally with a prayer, then statements from leaders like Nwogu, Famuyide and state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge.
“As an American of African descent, this directly impacts me as well because those are my young sisters in Nigeria as well, and what goes on concerns me here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,” Broome said.
Following the speakers, the group marched around the Capitol chanting, “All we are saying, bring back our girls.”
Eunice Adeyanju, 54, from the southeastern part of Nigeria and the mother of three girls and one boy, said she cannot fathom what the parents of the kidnapped girls are going through.
“I feel pity for them, for their mothers,” Adeyanju said. “It’s disheartening.”