Our Girls Return to their Families


Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari applauds as he welcomes a group of Chibok girls, who were held captive for three years by the millitant group Boko Haram, in Abuja, Nigeria, May 7, 2017. Bayo Omoboriowo/Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ATTENTION EDITORS – FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. – RTS15KIL

Freed Nigerian Schoolgirls Reunite With Their Families After 3 Years

4:53 PM ET

(ABUJA, Nigeria) — The 82 Nigerian schoolgirls recently released after more than three years in Boko Haram captivity reunited with their families Saturday as anxious parents looked for signs of how deeply the extremists had changed their daughters’ lives.

Brightly dressed families rushed through the crowd in the capital, Abuja, and embraced. One small group sank to their knees, with a woman raising her hands as if praising in church. Some danced. Others were in tears.

“I am really happy today, I am Christmas and new year, I am very happy and I thank God,” said mother Godiya Joshua, whose daughter Esther was among those freed.

This month’s release was the largest liberation of hostages since 276 Chibok schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school in 2014. Five commanders from the extremist group were exchanged for the girls’ freedom, and Nigeria’s government has said it would make further exchanges to bring the 113 remaining schoolgirls home.

“Our joy is never complete until we see the complete 113, because one Chibok girl matters to all Chibok people,” said a parent of one of the freed schoolgirls, Yahi Bwata.

Many of the girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry extremists and have had children. Some have been radicalized and have refused to return. It is feared that some have been used in suicide bombings.

The mass abduction in April 2014 brought international attention to Boko Haram’s deadly insurgency in northern Nigeria, and it launched a global Bring Back Our Girls campaign that drew the backing of some celebrities, including former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama. Thousands have been kidnapped during the extremists’ eight-year insurgency, and more than 20,000 have been killed.

The release of the 82 schoolgirls this month came after an initial group of 21 girls was released in October. Nigeria’s government has acknowledged negotiating with Boko Haram for their release, with mediation help from the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The two groups of freed schoolgirls reunited earlier Saturday, Nigeria’s Channels TV reported, showing the young women laughing and embracing.

Since the latest release, many families in the remote Chibok community had been waiting for word on whether their daughters were among them. A government list of names circulated, and parents were asked to confirm the freed girls’ identities through photos.

Both groups of freed girls have been in government care in the capital as part of a nine-month reintegration program that President Muhammadu Buhari has said he will oversee personally. But human rights groups have criticized the government for keeping the young women so long in the capital, far from their homes.

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Associated Press writer Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria contributed.

I thought we could all use some good news.

There are still girls missing, and this isn’t over yet.  For some of these girls, in many ways, it may never be totally over — any one who has survived abuse, or knows someone who did, will understand that — but they are home, and back where they belong.

My prayers got to them, their families and, especially, to the girls who are still missing, even the ones who have been brainwashed and have chosen to stay.  I pray for them perhaps most of all.

Please help me in keeping a spotlight shined on Boko Haram’s crimes, until all Our Girls are home.

Namaste,

Barbara

82 More of Our Girls are Free


82 Freed Chibok Schoolgirls Arrive in Nigeria’s Capital 3 Years After Abduction

9:19 AM ET

(ABUJA, Nigeria) — The 82 freed Chibok schoolgirls arrived in Nigeria’s capital on Sunday to meet President Muhammadu Buhari as anxious families awaited an official list of names and looked forward to reuniting three years after the mass abduction.

The newly released girls arrived at the Abuja airport and were met by the Buhari’s chief of staff, presidential adviser Femi Adesina said. The president was expected to meet with the schoolgirls at 4 p.m. local time.

The 82 girls were freed Saturday in exchange for an unspecified number of detained suspected Boko Haram extremists, Buhari’s office said in a statement.

This is the largest negotiated release so far of the nearly 300 girls whose abduction in 2014 highlighted the threat of Nigeria’s homegrown extremists who are linked to the Islamic State group. Before Saturday’s release, 195 of the girls had been captive. Now 113 of the girls remain unaccounted for.

A first group of 21 girls were released in October as Nigeria announced it had begun negotiations with the extremist group. At the time, the government denied making an exchange for Boko Haram suspects or paying ransom.

The girls released in October have been reported to be in government care in Abuja for medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation, according to the government. Human rights groups have criticized the decision to keep the girls in custody in Abuja, nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Chibok.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which along with the Swiss government mediated months of negotiations between Nigeria’s government and Boko Haram, said the newly released girls soon would meet with their families.

The ICRC also tweeted what might be the first public image of the freed schoolgirls on Sunday, showing a line of young women wearing shirts with the ICRC logo waiting to board a helicopter.

The ICRC said it had acted as a neutral intermediary to transport the freed girls into Nigerian government custody.

Long-suffering family members said they were eagerly awaiting a list of names and their “hopes and expectations are high.”

The Bring Back Our Girls campaign said Sunday it was happy that Nigeria’s government had committed to rescuing the 113 remaining schoolgirls. “We urge the president and his government to earnestly pursue the release of all our Chibok girls and other abducted citizens of Nigeria,” the group said in a statement.

The 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in 2014 are among thousands of people abducted by Boko Haram over the years.

The mass abduction brought the extremist group’s rampage in northern Nigeria to world attention and began years of heartbreak for the families of the missing schoolgirls.

Some relatives did not live to see their daughters released. Many of the captive girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry their captors and give birth to children in remote forest hideouts without knowing if they would see their parents again. It is feared that other girls were strapped with explosives and sent on missions as suicide bombers.

A Nigerian military official with direct knowledge of the rescue operation said the freed girls were found near the town of Banki in Borno state near Cameroon.

Boko Haram remains active in that area. On Friday, the United States and Britain issued warnings that the extremist group was actively planning to kidnap foreigners in an area of Borno state “along the Kumshe-Banki axis.”

Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed,” but the group continues to carry out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. Its insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation.

It’s been a long time since these girls were taken from their homes and their village.  I am sure it seems much, much longer to them.  I don’t know exactly what tragedies they have survived, but I know that they have survived because they are courageous, and because they love life.  I honor them and their survival and now I ask for prayers for their continued healing, that they are able to make whole lives for themselves, and to move on from this terrible experience they have lived through.

It is my solemn hope that this kind of experience will never happen to a group of young girls ever again.  That they will not be kidnapped, taken from their homes, lives and families; that their lives will not be reduced to be owned and controlled by terrorists or warriors again.

History must never be allowed to repeated itself.

The Reality of Black LIves Matter


 

Many are speaking ill of the organization Black Lives Matter. Many untruths are being said but these people are members of the organization and are speaking truth. I hope this will clarify issues for some people. Ultimately, I believe all lives matter. However. I do believe for America it must start with Black Lives Matter. We have been a racist country since our founding. The issue of slavery has been the ghost rattling keys in our closets.

 

I wish the Founding Fathers had succeeded in their attempts. They did try long and hard. They decided it would be a less emotional issue for Americans to handle after we had been a country for a while. They meant well. But it is still here and it is now an abyss which divides America.

 

I want this to be healed. I want an end to racism and soon. I don’t want more people to die.

 

Let today be the day you look inside your heart of hearts and find the racism that is still lingering and hiding. Pull it out, vow to look at all people as your brothers and sisters. They truly are. We are equal. Murdering each other, lynching, hating will not change the fact that all color of people are equal. We are all children of the Universe, made from the same matter as the stars. Let us accomplish what the Founding Fathers weren’t able to do: make America truly, now and forever equal. equal for all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

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Freedom Project


Today, I was watching CNN International. I like getting the broader picture of the news. They ran a special program called Freedom Project. It was about young girls in sexual slavery. I wasn’t sure I could watch a program with girls my youngest granddaughter’s age. I did. I am glad I did. I want to share what I learned. Now, this program was focused on America. I feel if it is happening here, then it is also happening in Europe, Asia, India, Africa and South America.

 

There are, in fact, people who are working to get young girls out and to help them have a life off of the streets. It isn’t easy. But young women are being helped and are now free for the first time in years.

 

Sexual slavery is not a kind of job any woman would sign up for. But for young ones from very dysfunctional homes, victims of physical and emotional abuse and often familial rape, the pitch to run away and have money and a glamorous life is irresistible.

 

They are shown a world so far from the one they come from that it is overwhelming. The glamour doesn’t last long though. For this is the world of the pimp and the world costs a lot of money. The pimp or the gang is not going to go out and earn that money.

 

In the twenty first century, girls are introduced to drugs and often IV drugs. Once they are hooked, they are putty in the hands of the pimps. They are often on drugs 24/7 so they can service men without stop. They won’t live long like this but the owners will just steal another girl to replace them. Then the girls are tattooed with gang signs, initials of the pimp or dollar signs or other signs which indicate money. The world now knows they are owned. They are the property of some man or men.

 

Every time the girls look at their bodies, they see the tattoos and think this is their life, there is nothing else to look forward to. Just men handling their bodies. Several girls interviewed told how some of the johns would hold guns to their heads, one had a man hold a knife to her belly during the act.

 

Some girls are helped out of the street life. They meet people who have made it their life to look for and find these young girls and help them find the person they used to be. It is a big job for the girls and for the people who get them out.

 

One thing that happens is that when a girl is ready, they are taken to a few certain tattoo shops where the signs that they are property and belong to someone are turned into a beautiful tattoos that obliterate the original one. Butterflies, wings and other such tattoos remind the girls that they are now free. They belong to no one but themselves.

 

There are some companies that will hire these girls and help them to learn skills which will, in time, enable them to get a job in the real world. They gain confidence and learn how to interact with others in the ways that will help them fit into the real world.

 

This is all wonderful but there are still thousands of young girls out on the streets. This is part of the reason that family violence must be eradicated. Physical and emotional abuse can make street life look glamorous. Incest within families must end and rape of all kinds must end. There needs to be loving bonds within families and every member of a family needs to know how important they are and how much they are loved.

 

Survivors of sexual slavery have a new chance at life. But they often carry a criminal record with them as well as the horror of the memories which will never go away. Just like the fight many vets face when they return from war and have PTSD.

 

The present world is harsh and crippling. It has the ability to completely destroy young lives and to change people from the person they were meant to be to a contorted version of that person. This is an ugly subject and I know it is hard to read, but we can’t turn away and avoid reality. We need to find ways to help. Helping one person is saving that person from living in a hell on earth.

 

Namaste

Barbara

 

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END SLAVERY NOW

US NATIONAL TIP HOTLINE        1-888-373-7888

A project of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

 

Sexual slavery can be stopped, if we all want it to stop

Sexual slavery can be stopped, if we all want it to stop

Happy Passover


Tonight is the first night of the Passover Festival, celebrated by Jews around the world.  It is a time of remembering when the Jews were slaves in Egypt.  God used Moses and Aaron to free them.  That would have been enough (Dayenu) but then God parted the Red Sea and allowed them to pass dry, preventing the Egyptians from following.  That would have been enough (Dayenu) but he fed them for 40 years in the desert before bringing them to the promised land.

Passover is a holiday of celebration, the celebration of Freedom.

The Freedom to live and worship as you please.  The Freedom, sometimes, to have a little fun with it all.

Enjoy this video and have a Happy Passover.

 

Why is Racism still an issue?


 

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I have written about war and peace, I have written about gender equality. I have written about people living in violence. Today, I am writing to the world about yet another human tragedy. I don’t know how bad racism is everywhere in the world, but I feel it is getting worse in America. I am an old lady, but I have a black hoodie that says peace on the front. When I wear it, I wear it with the hood up. I wear it that way for Trayvon Martin.  I wear it because I realize that more people will look at it on the body of  a 5’2″ blonde white woman.  I wear it because my grandfather told me about the Holocaust when I was nine years old. He gave me a book of photographs in black and white of the piles of dead Jews, Poles and Gypsies. He sat me on his knee and told me that we can never forget or it will happen again. I have never forgotten this experience. It has influenced a lot of the work in my life. He died in 1972, and I have told this story in schools, at battered women’s shelters, Holocaust museums and to mean hearted people. I have mentioned it before, here on my blog.

 

Injustice begins with seeds of hatred, intolerance, and ego. I have worked so many places, with so many different people that I can quite honestly tell you that we are all the same. Our hearts beat in the same rhythm, our eyes show us the same world (for good or bad), we all get hungry and tired. We all need to prevent dehydration by drinking fluids. Except for multiple births, we all look different and sound different. We could all die from a barrage of bullets. Why is it that small differences frighten people so much? My nose is different than yours, should that make me feel better than you? No. My skin color is different from many other Caucasians. It depends on the nationality of your ancestors. The people in my family do not all look alike. The DNA is different for each of us. This is true except for identical twins, like my grandsons.

 

During a lifetime, events happen that are not fair. They are not just. If you have a bad interaction with someone of different skin color does that mean that all people of that skin color are a threat? No, of course, not. The human species is more than capable of turning a person or a people’s life into hell. Genocide of any race or religion is a hideous crime without any justification.

 

Morgan Freeman was on a talk show today and Queen Latifah  put a question to him.  She asked him if he believed in intelligent beings in other universes or places in space. He thought a moment and said, “Yes, I do.” She then asked him if those beings would have a god. He again answered yes. I got to thinking about alien life. We are so hateful as a species that I tried to imagine what would happen if people with green skin, or antennae for ears, or even has three arms came to Earth and I think we would kill all of them without a qualm.We would justify it as the only way to keep human beings safe. I think we would never accept them and would destroy them without hesitation. Add in the concept that they might have a god or a goddess. Or better yet, what if our “God” was also their god. I think it would be ever so sad and might even destroy our souls. We can’t even allow other human beings to believe in a god/goddess who they are comfortable with if it is not our god. We want to kill them. It is time to stop sowing the seeds of discrimination, intolerance and hatred. It is time that we got back to the garden. The garden, yes the Garden of Eden. The place where it all began, if you believe that. (Don’t start about Eve. She offered Adam a piece of fruit, he chose of his own free will to eat of it. That is on him. And it always was on him.)

 

 

 

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I am dedicating this blog to every human being who died due to hatred and intolerance.

 

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The Holiday of Passover Part 1


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            The seder plate is the center of the holiday

 

Right now the Jewish people are celebrating one of their biggest holidays. Passover is a holiday that centers on the family. It is not a holiday in remembrance of a person, but a time in Jewish history. The celebration is in recognition of the end of slavery for the Jewish people. They had been slaves in Egypt for a very long time. They made bricks and were owned by their masters just as black people used to be owned here in America. Memories are the strength of the Jewish people. Memory is the secret of eternal life. 

 

“A scattered nation that remembers its past and connects it with the present will undoubtedly have a future as a people and probably even a more glorious than the one in the past.”    —-Lev Levanda

 

“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.”   —Corrie Ten Boom

 

Passover is more than a holiday. Passover is the magical message of spring, the season Thoreau called “an experience in immortality.” It is the time when Mother Nature reminds us that rebirth and rejuvenation are part of God’s plan for the world. Passover is a biblical proclamation that human beings are meant to be free. Let me repeat that. Human beings are meant to be free.They are meant to be free and equal.  Passover is the birthday of the Jewish people, when the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob were redeemed from Egypt and chosen by G-d to begin their roles as His Chosen People who would serve as a “light unto the natures.”

 

Passover is the wonder of ritual, the beauty of ceremony, the power of customs and the spirituality of tradition, the meaningfulness of shared observance. At the Passover Seder, all of this is transmitted to the next generation. It is handed down generation to generation. It is passed from the past to the present. Each Jew relives the escape every year during the Seder.

 

When the Jewish people are overwhelmed by personal problems that we think are insurmountable, they remember the story of their ancestors escaping from Egypt. It was impossible for the Jewish people to escape their owners, it was impossible for them to realize their dream of freedom, until G-d helped Moses lead them to freedom. The story is saved in the Torah to be re-experienced by any Jewish person.

 

“In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”   —Prime Minister Ben Gurion

 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”   —Albert Einstein

 

 

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The story is found in the Torah, in the book of Exodus. Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob who had been sold into Egyptian slavery by his own brothers, rose to a position of leadership second only to King Pharaoh. Years later, famine forced the family of Jacob to settle in Egypt where they were reunited. The Hebrews were accepted warmly out of respect for the assistance Joseph gave to the Pharaoh over the years. The Egyptian government acknowledged Joseph as their nation’s savior. In time, a new Pharaoh came to power and did not recognize the Hebrews past services to the nation of Egypt. He soon turned the Hebrew into slaves. The people cried out to G-d and with their leader, Moses, their prayers were answered. It took centuries but their prayers were answered. God performed a number of miracles, Ten Plagues that were visited on Egypt to convince the Pharaoh to “Let His People Go.”  On the night of the Tenth Plague, G-d smote the lives of every first born child. He passed-over the homes of the Jews and they fled into the night towards their freedom. Passover begins on the anniversary of that flight into the dark night being chased by the Egyptians.

 

 

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