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Redmond mothers hold rally for kidnapped Nigerian girls at City Hall | SLIDESHOW

It has been a little more than a month since 276 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

The girls have not been returned to their families yet and are reportedly set to be sold into marriage to militants for $12 each.

The story struck such a chord with Sharice Belikoff that she felt the need to do something. This came in the form of a rally and vigil last Sunday evening at Redmond City Hall.

“I’m a mother of two girls,” she said about why the issue hit so close to home. “My girls are 10 and 11…I just couldn’t let it go.”

Belikoff, who lives on the Redmond-Sammamish border, is originally from South Africa and is no stranger to “stories like this” and feels the world needs to take notice as it is “not just another news story.” She worked to get the word out through social media, but felt that it was not enough.

“This is something the world needs to see,” she said.

A DAY FOR MOTHERS AND FAMILIES

Belikoff thought the best thing to do more as a mother was to stand with other mothers in solidarity for the mothers and families currently missing their daughters in Nigeria. She got together with a group of 8-10 other mothers to organize Sunday’s rally and vigil, saying they specifically chose that date because it was Mother’s Day as they were lucky to be able to be surrounded by family, whereas the kidnapped girls and their families in Nigeria are not so lucky.

One of the mothers who helped Belikoff in organizing Sunday’s rally and vigil was her friend and Redmond resident Julianne Pierson.

Pierson, who has various connections in the area’s religious communities, reached out to various religion leaders to let them know any and all were welcome to the event.

“This was something we all felt passionate about,” she said about her and others’ participation, adding that she was not the only one who gave up a special Mother’s Day dinner or event to attend the rally and vigil.

Terry Scott, another Redmond resident, was also involved in organizing the event. She said the abducted Nigerian girls’ story was very difficult for her to swallow.

“I couldn’t even finish reading it,” said the mother of three girls, adding that she stresses out when she’s even a few minutes late picking up her daughters.

COMING TOGETHER

With only two days to plan and publicize the event, between 60 and 70 people attended Sunday’s event, which Belikoff said was a good turnout as it was such short notice.

People of all ages and backgrounds attended.

“It was very beautiful,” Belikoff said.

She added that there were a number of Muslims in attendance who said their hearts were breaking the same as everyone else’s and that the Boko Haram are evil.

Also in attendance was Sister Betty Schumacher, pastoral associate for St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond. Schumacher also spoke at the rally and vigil.

“The reason I went to the vigil/rally was to stand in solidarity with those who gathered, as well as to be in solidarity with the girls who were kidnapped as well as to be aware of their families,” she said. “I believe that we are connected with one another and their pain, their grief. Their sorrow is also ours.”

CALL TO ACTION

Schumacher said the vigil was filled with deep felt emotion for what had happened but it was also a call to take action, for people to contact their congressional leaders and to challenge them to speak out and to address the injustice that is happening.

Redmond City Council Member Hank Myers, who was also in attendance, added that he has been disappointed with the recent trend in American foreign policy to “become involved in conflicts on political grounds but not for human or moral issues.”

“This kidnapping is an issue that unites our country in outrage on so many levels,” he said. “These innocent young women and their parents were intent on improving their lives and the future of their country.”

Myers — who attended not as a council member, but “as a sympathetic citizen interested in helping create effective pressure on our national leaders to take action” —  also spoke at the event and said he meant his words to spur action and pressure on the nation’s leaders “who seem all too reluctant to commit to a rescue.”

“As a veteran, I know there are hundreds of trained, qualified and experienced men and women who would jump at the opportunity to help free these young women and bring their captors to justice,” he said.

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