There hasn’t been as much press coverage for you, Nigeria. Almost no one mentioned your name at the Golden Globe Awards or on social media, in the lead stories or soapbox editorials for newspapers or around our dinner tables. If we’re charitable, we could say that it’s because this is an unspeakable moment, perhaps, too terrible to flippantly hashtag or speak aloud. Or perhaps it’s simply that we cannot bear your pain and loss, that we feel overwhelmed and powerless. Or even more horrifically, perhaps we simply don’t value your lives the way that God values you, you feel far away from us, beyond our compassion. God forgive us.

Young girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram sent among you as a suicide bombers – one a child of ten years old – to detonate their young selves in your midst, then your bodies strewn across a market, your dead lined up in the streets, and the grief of a nation caught in terror over and over and over again.

Then I heard of a town in the northeast, once home to 10,000 souls, now desolate and quiet. One report says 150 dead, another says 2,000 dead, but a witness said, “It has all been burnt down. We have been burnt down.” There was no time to bury the dead after the attacks: everyone who could run had to run to survive and so the streets smell of the rotting ones.

Refugees trying to swim across the lake to Chad, drowning in the attempt. And still it goes on, unchecked. More than a million people displaced by relentless and increasing violence.

I made the mistake of clicking on Images for my Google search a few days ago and my stomach heaved at the inhumanity casually loading on my screen.

We know that you are beautiful and strong – rich in wisdom and literature, artists and brilliant thinkers and leaders. You are the nation of Chinua Achebe and Chimanada Ngozi Adichie, Ayodele Awojobi, Genevieve Nnaji, Funmi Iyanda, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. We see the danger of the single story and we won’t reduce you to this one story.

But right now, in these days, the world is heaving with pain and you are an epicentre of sorrow.

I write letters to international leaders for all the good it will do. I read the stories in the news, I make myself pay attention. I write prayers for your girls. And I feel powerless, useless, broken-hearted.

What use are letters of empty words pleading for action, for help, when what we want to do is lay down in the grass and keen wordlessly? What will be the legacy of these years, I wonder, what seeds are being planted in your sad young people of the north east?

So I need to say it once at least, here, again for all the good it will do:

We mourn your dead, each soul, they are not uncounted to God, each one mattered. We mourn your injured and devastated. We mourn your homes and your jobs, your work and your art. We mourn your right to life. We see what this is doing to your beautiful land and legacy, to your families and your culture, and we mourn with you. We mourn for the damage to your bodies and your souls, your communities and your minds. We mourn for your daughters and your sons, your old women and your old men.

We repent of how we ignore you, of how we turn a blind eye to your suffering and your brilliance, of how the nations of the world continue to look on with only empty words and threats, of how our compassion has yet to turn to action. Your massacres, your sufferings, are forgotten, it seems.

I can’t do much but I’m doing this: I’m paying attention, I’m doing what I can from my small corner to advocate for you and hold your name up, and there is one small candle burning in my house for you, reminding me to pray for justice, to remember you.


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  • gretchen

    Thank you, Sarah. Thank you for paying attention and for mourning and repenting and praying. Linking arms, sister.

  • Rebecca

    Yes, joining in prayer.

  • Hannah Schaefer

    Yes. I am heartbroken and I don’t know what to do, but this helps. Thank you.

  • I am Charlie, and I am also Baga.

  • Carol Stoutland Andersen

    So sad – thank you for this beautiful lament and urging towards prayer! May God bring lasting peace to this tragedy!

  • We talk about this tragedy at our dinner table and on our couches. We pray and know God is listening. Thank you for writing this beautiful lament.

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  • Musu

    Thank you Sarah

  • Amy Danielle

    Thank-you for this and creating a space to lament without the shock tacktics of other media outlets or ‘googling’ the atrocities. May our hearts of stone turn to flesh and imagine just for one moment how we would feel/plead/intercede/act if this tragedy was happening in our country, our town, our family.

  • Caroline

    Thank you for writing this Sarah.
    Keening is such a beautiful and heartbreaking word. I use it sparingly because I feel like it should only be used when there is no light left. I pray for Nigeria and though I know there must be light somewhere, I can’t see it. Thank you for keening with me.

  • Kaitlin

    Thank you.

    We do not always know how to tread the Kingdom when we’re here on broken ground, but your words and prayers give us a start.

    We walk on and remember, and usher in the justice of His Kingdom.

  • Achara

    This is why I admire you so…May God bless you and may God reign down his mercy on the broken hearts that is Nigeria.

  • Est

    thank you for writing this, was having a conversation with my Mum about no one is talking about it in the news and I think that maybe it is because it is too huge and too awful to really comprehend. But we need to notice and pray and be aware. so thankyou again

  • Thank you! Praying!

  • Mark Moore

    Sarah, I really appreciate this post. I am a close friend of a Nigerian pastor who lives in an area of Nigeria that is home to much violence. He does not have a single church member who has not suffered the loss of someone due to persecution. He oversees a large network of pastors and church planters who are constantly terrorized by Boko Haram. I can tell you this, what matters to them more than anything is knowing that they are not forgotten. Knowing that their brothers and sisters in the West are praying for them and weeping alongside of them often is what sustains them. They are constantly encouraged by the thought that they are being prayed for in the midst of their suffering. I have shared your post with him in the hopes that it will bring encouragement to the church there as much as it brings awareness to the church here.

  • Patsy

    Thank you Sarah for putting action on your thoughts and prayers – I share with you, and many who are thinking of this ‘situation’ that words seem too trivial to fully explain my emotion. You have done so with grace and love and concern.

  • Kelly

    Thank you for writing this! I’ve been praying for, talking about, boycotting companies, and calling politicians for Nigeria since 1997. I am heartbroken. I am holding hope with you. I am remembering.

  • sammysunshine

    A sweet lady from my church directed me to this blog after I posted something about Nigeria in the wake of the tragedy there. Thank you for writing this and sharing your heart. Also linking arms.

  • Michael Moore

    Thank you for the reminder… The passionate reminder…

  • pastordt

    Poignant, beautiful, tragic. Thank you.

  • Mary Gemmill

    Thank you Sarah. I’ve shared this with Nigerian friends in New Zealand who will be touched by this tender post.

  • Thank you Sarah. These words of lament and repentance are so important. “…of how our compassion has yet to turn to action.” beautiful. It seems that the flip side of lament and repentance is hope… hope for a brighter future. Perhaps hope action. Thank you for taking this important first step towards hope.

  • Carla Shaw

    My heart has been so heavy about this. Thank you for putting into words my heart’s lament.

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  • Thank you Sarah. I’m mourning alongside you, and all who are holding Nigeria in prayer.

  • Thank you, Sarah. Keening in the grass…yep, that right there.

  • donna w.

    Thanks for sharing this Sarah. Sharing it on my blog. We need to keep lifting them up in our prayer. The media and the world forgets too quickly.

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  • Joke

    Thank you for writing this. I am Nigerian and so glad we are not forgotten. God bless you.

  • “I make myself pay attention.” This is so hard. It makes me want to turn off my beloved football and baseball games because really, why? But it’s our calling, isn’t it? Do as Christ would. Thank you Sarah.

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  • Hey Sarah, this is quite something. Thank you for remembering us, for lending us your voice. And yes, there is more to us than these sickening tragedies. God bless you!

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