by Monte Sahlin

From ANN, May 28, 2014

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination has launched a united prayer campaign for the nearly 300 girls who were abducted by a militant group six weeks ago in Nigeria. Leaders are urging Adventists to use social networking media on the Internet as well as personal conversation and community contacts to pass on the hashtags and slogan #unitedinprayer for #nigeriagirls and join with Adventists in Nigeria in praying for the plight of the enslaved young women who have captured global media attention.

Bassey Udoh, president of the denomination’s Eastern Nigeria Union Conference, called for prayer for the girls’ peaceful release, for their families, and wisdom for government officials negotiating with their captors. The militant Muslim group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of at least 276 girls from a public Girls Secondary School in Chibok area of Borno State on April 14. Media reports have said the girls were forcibly converted to Islam. “Boko Haram” translated from the Hausa language means “Western education is a sin.”

“These girls are being denied their right to education, which is what will help them to improve their lives and to be the best they can be,” said Heather-Dawn Small, director of Women’s Ministries for the denomination's General Conference (GC). “The environment they’re living now is one that’s limiting who they are as women.”

Dwayne Leslie, an associate director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the GC, said that Boko Haram’s recent media attention for the mass kidnapping is part of the group’s ongoing violation of religious freedom in the region. “This violent sect has been engaged in a long-running and systematic war against Christians and moderate Muslims in northern Nigeria. I'm deeply saddened by the gross violations of human rights and religious liberty and pray for the safe return of these young girls. It is my prayer that the residents of northern Nigeria will ultimately have their right to freedom of religion fully protected under the law.”

A Church spokesman said members can continue using social media tools for other united prayer campaigns. “The hashtag #unitedinprayer will also be an ongoing way for us to call the Adventist Church to pray for specific issues,” said Garrett Caldwell, an associate communication director for the GC.

The Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.