By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published May 29, 2014
JONESBORO—The Nigerian community at St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro believes in the power of prayer.
The group began a novena Friday, May 23, at the church to offer petitions for the schoolgirls abducted in Nigeria in April by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
“We have been praying for the kidnapped girls,” said Basil Odusanya, president of the Nigerian community.
The nine nights of prayer, which continued nightly in individual homes, will conclude with a candlelight prayer service on Saturday, May 31, at the church. All are invited to attend the prayer service, which begins at 7 p.m. The church is located at 591 Flint River Road in Jonesboro.
Odusanya said the government in Nigeria refused to acknowledge that the kidnapping had happened or to take action until the Western world began shining a light on it.
“It’s really sad,” said Odusanya. “Personally, I feel it has to do with political issues in Nigeria.”
In addition to the April 14 abduction of the students in Borno, twin bombings on May 20 in the city of Jos are adding to the tension and unease. While some of the young girls were able to escape, Boko Haram continues to hold captive 276 of the students.
The novena includes a Prayer for Nigeria in Distress and petitions for the suffering women of the world.
The ninth day of the novena will reflect upon verses in Psalm 31 and trust in the Lord to rescue his people from enemies and the hands of pursuers.
Father JohnPaul Ezeonyido, pastor of Christ Our Hope Church in Lithonia, is also a native of Nigeria. Father Ezeonyido said parishioners there have also been praying for the group of girls.
The community will continue specific prayers at the second Sunday of the month Nigerian Igbo Masses, which are celebrated at 2 p.m. at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 928 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd., SW, in Atlanta.
Father Ezeonyido said he is hopeful that American involvement in the search for the students will help. He also believes prayer is important.
“There are a lot of ways the international community could help,” he said.
According to the priest, who hails from the Anambra State, Nigeria, Boko Haram has been “killing people indiscriminately” since 2009, including market bombings.
“These people have no conscience,” he said.
Father Ezeonyido said that the goal of Boko Haram is to make the country “ungovernable.”
The Prayer for Nigeria in Distress asks for help for people weighed down by moral, economic and political problems.
“Spare this nation Nigeria from chaos, anarchy and doom. Bless us with your kingdom of justice, love and peace,” reads the prayer.