A large group of the 120 students of the Bethel Baptist High School kidnapped on 5 July in the Kaduna State of Nigeria have been able to return home. After 28 pupils could return to the educational centre on July 27, local media now report that another 57 students have been freed between August 22-28.
This new move has been confirmed by the spokesman of the Police of Kaduna, Muhammad Jalige, according to Premium Times Nigeria. No official explanation has been given about the cause of the freeing, but the local press speaks of possible ransom payments by some families.
The dilemma had also led to a debate inside the Nigerian Baptist Convention. After refusing to consider an economic solution in July, the Christian denomination later admitted that “no other option” was on the table.
The day the children could meet again their parents, Israel Akanji, President of the Baptist Convention, thanked God and the many organizations inside and outside Nigeria who have supported them in the last week and praised the patience of families. “Our prayer is that our joy will be full and that the other children will also be released very soon.” There are over 30 children from the school still in captivity.
Sick and exhausted
According to the regional chair of the Christian Association in Nigeria in Kaduna, Joseph Hayab, the students have been able to return to their families 52 days after they were kidnapped, and were later checked by the medical services. “The parents were advised to immediately take their wards to the hospital for medical check-up, as they were very sick and exhausted. The children looked so weak, sick and tired”, said Hayab.
“We want to receive all our students”
Speaking to news website Punch, the owner of the Bethel High School, Ishaya Jangado, said that both the staff and the families of the educational community continue to trust God, adding that no one should question how the young people are being freed.
“As Christians, we are people of faith and the simple definition of faith is that you receive what you have not even seen. So our heart desire is that we want to receive all our students in the forest”, said Jangado.
“But we are receiving them in batches, and the Bible says all things work for good for those who believe in him. If it pleases God that our students should come in batches we cannot question God. We are happy that God loves us all”, he added.
Kidnappings, a tragic reality
Over 90 of the kidnapped students have now been freed. The number of youth still in captivity is between 30 and 33, according to Nigerian media.
The reality of massive kidnappings by non-identified groups of armed men has been one of the main security issues in Nigeria.
Only this week, local media reported about the kidnapping of other 73 students of a secondary school in the state of Zamfara, in the northwest of the country.
According to UNICEF, at least 1,000 children and youth have been kidnapped in Nigeria between December 2020 and August 2021. “No family should lose a child just because it took the right decision to send that child to school”, said the representative of the organization in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins. “We reiterate our call to authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure schools are safe for all children”.
This story originally appeared at Evangelical Focus and is republished here with permission.