When my daughter was 15 a young girl her age was abducted in our small town. Within hours of realizing the evil that had occured search teams combed the woods organized in long lines of worried parents and sympathetic neighbours. The police questioned every imaginable suspect or witness.
The whole town sat the vigil that was her parents' nightmare. I remember thinking, how could I sit still? How could I rest when my child had been ripped from the safety I trusted I had built for her? How could I shut down the horror stories playing in my brain and how could I breathe through the fear in my heart?
I worked in the school system at that time and was called to the classroom where this young girl's empty seat waited for her safe return. Her classmates circled the space of that desk with looks of fear and bewilderment.
She did not return. Her body was found two weeks later, curled in the fetal position and left in the woods like yesterday's litter.
Our town was small and this event shattered the illusions we had of security. Doors were locked and children were driven to school. On the day of her funeral, thousands lined the streets to say goodbye and to offer our support to her family. We never came back from that event, the peace and order, illusory as it may have been, was never restored fully. Every parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle, neighbour or friend lost a tiny part of their heart to that young girl.
This was one child in Canada. Today it is 276 in Nigeria.
Today it is millions who are touched by the plight of young girls who dared to dream of an education. Each of those stolen children is someone's daughter. I find myself struggling to know what I can do, where are the woods I can search for these children? I am haunted by my powerlessness in the face if such an atrocity.
What can we do when a tragedy of this magnitude prevails in a country which is distant and unknown to us? Have we become too good at turning away and assuring ourselves we can do nothing?
When the tsunami hit Sri Lanka foreign aid poured into that country overnight at unprecedented amounts to comfort and rebuild. So why did it take so long for us to react to the abduction of almost 300 school children? It took a week for this event to become big news in the western world. Our media spent their energy on first world problems while God knows what was happening to those children of Africa. Eventually the outrage began but it seems to have had little effect, other than drawing out the perpetrator to boast his responsibility on the world stage and to taunt us with his plans.
The world's children are the world's future and we are delusional if we believe that future is contained in geographical or cultural boundaries. Are we not the village it takes to raise these children? Then we need to act like it, now.