By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
WASHINGTON (Worthy News) - A Christian charity hopes that the graduation of two young women who were among hundreds of Christian schoolgirls kidnapped in northeast Nigeria will encourage persecuted Christians.
Barnabas Fund said that “Congratulations are due to Lydia Pogu and Joy Bishara, two of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls who completed their master's degrees in the United States.”
The two cousins were among the 276 schoolgirls abducted in 2014 by the Islamist group known as Boko Haram, according to Christians familiar with the case. Around 160 have subsequently escaped.
Boko Haram can be loosely translated as “education is forbidden,” referring to modern, Western-style education.
Pogu said in remarks shared with Worthy News that also her abductors told her “that school is a taboo for women and warned us that if we go back to school, they will come for us.”
Boko Haram’s strict interpretation of Islam is shared by other Islamist groups, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, which in March 2022 closed girls’ high schools.
The closure came just hours after the school re-opened for the first time since the Taliban takeover seven months earlier, Christians said.
“Boko Haram’s opposition makes the success of Lydia and Joy all the more impressive,” Barnabas Fund told Worthy News.
Originally, Pogu recalled, she never wanted to return to school. “I decided I was not going to go back to school anymore because they [Boko Haram] advised us that wherever we went, they were going to find us.”
Yet with help from a U.S.-based charity, the two young women were able to study in the United States, graduating first with high school diplomas from Canyonville Christian Academy. They then received undergraduate degrees from Southeastern University and finally master's degrees from the same institution.
Now the two women say they want to use their skills to help “other victims of injustice and oppression.”
Barnabas Fund stressed that Lydia Pogu and Joy Bishara Lydia demonstrate “the importance of providing educational opportunities to the persecuted and marginalized.”
The charity said that through its “Living Streams” school places sponsorship program and other educational projects, it backs Christian education also outside Nigeria. “We support 120 schools in Pakistan, providing a Christian education for more than 11,000 Christian children. We also fund adult education, such as adult literacy classes in Senegal. That allowed many believers there to read the Word of God for themselves and thereby deepen their Christian faith.”
Barnabas Fund added that it has similar adult literacy classes for brick-kiln families in Pakistan, many reportedly held as modern-day enslaved people to pay off debts.
Additionally, Barnabas supports “pastoral and theological training opportunities – from short courses to doctoral degrees – to grassroots church leaders from 23 countries.” The group says it hopes the “Lord continues to use education to bless individual believers and build His Church across the world.”