Virginia interfaith leaders urge action on kidnapping of Nigerian girls

earth-newMore than 80 Virginia religious leaders representing nearly every faith and denomination have signed a joint letter to world leaders, urging them to take more coordinated action to return more than 220 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their school by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

The broad coalition of Virginia religious leaders was convened on Friday by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, with help from U.S. Senator Mark Warner. The interfaith group also has posted an online petition and have encouraged members of their respective faith communities and other Virginians to sign it as a public statement of condemnation for the actions of Boko Haram.

“Across our diverse faiths, we find absolute unity when it comes to defending vulnerable children, especially girls who are seeking a better life through education,” Marco Grimaldo, CEO of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, said. “We must both speak against these violent acts and also do more to support the education and empowerment of women and girls in our communities and around the world.”

“We join hands with our brothers and sisters in the various faith traditions in Virginia who have openly condemned these actions. Slavery, oppression and injustice are prohibited in Islam and Boko Haram actions and threats are not justified by any faith teachings,” said Imad Damaj of the Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs.

“Our voices are strongest when we stand together,” Sen. Mark Warner said. “I applaud the leadership of this interfaith coalition from all across the Commonwealth.”

The full text of the letter is below.


May 12, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
The United Nations
760 United Nations Plaza
Manhattan, NY 10017
President Goodluck Jonathan

Dear President Obama, Secretary-General Ban, and President Jonathan:

We write to you today to express our outrage over the Boko Haram kidnapping of the young Nigerian school girls and to urge action to bring them home.

That these young girls have been taken and are to be sold as brides or slaves is shocking to our moral sensibilities. The intent behind these acts – to keep girls from going to school, because Boko Haram believes educating women is a sin – is abhorrent to our values. Actions that pervert religion to oppress girls seeking education are morally reprehensible.

We represent many distinct faiths, but we speak with one united voice. We, together with our congregations, call on you to:

Assist Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad in locating and returning these girls to their homes, and to root out Boko Haram terrorist elements from these countries;

Invest in education for girls as a symbolic rejection of Boko Haram’s ideology against education, which led them to kidnap these young girls;

Religious leaders and people of faith around the world, to speak out against the vile acts of Boko Haram, whose actions are motivated by warped religions interpretation.

Virginia Interfaith Community

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