Vigil calls for girls' safe return

Events with around the world unite, shed light on Nigerian crime

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

A small crowd gathered Friday night around the Andersen Fountain at Clark College to honor a group of Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from school last month by a terrorist group. People held candles in silence while listening to 276 ticks — one for each girl who is, according to U.S. officials, still captive.

The April 15 abductions sparked outrage around the world, along with a social media campaign called Bring Back Our Girls. Vancouver's candlelight vigil was one of many happening in cities across the globe.

"We're just a drop in the bucket," said event organizer Angela Slot. "What can you do? Not a lot, but 'not a lot' is not nothing."

Slot said the news of the abductions rattled her. She has six kids, including two girls adopted from Ethiopia. One of her daughters, Maureen Slot, 12, recited the poem "My Right to Learn" by Robert Prouty before the crowd, ending:

You don't yet know

That there is much that I can give you in return.

The future is my name

And all I claim

Is this: my right to learn.

Other kids walked up to the microphone, holding signs and reciting excerpts from the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They cited the right to security and education and the freedom from slavery and servitude.

"When I heard the news on CNN, I was ashamed … angry," said Vitalis Ogbeama, president of the Nigerian Community in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The local group has about 500 members, none of whom are related to any of the students.

Ogbeama immigrated to the U.S. from southern Nigeria after high school. The abductions took place in the northeastern town of Chibok.

"You can't help but to be really sympathetic and sad," he said.

The group prayed for the girls' safe return to their families. They said "bring back our girls" in Spanish, Farsi, Hungarian, American Sign Language and Igbo — a language primarily spoken in Nigeria.