By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At Fontbonne Hall Academy, the plight of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls hits home.
Fontbonne Hall, a Catholic high school for girls in Bay Ridge, is dedicated to the idea that educating young women is an important component of a free society. So when students heard about the kidnapping of 276 girls from a school in Nigeria at the hands of the Boko Haram terrorist group, they knew they had to so something.
Jennifer Uzzi-Silverio, the campus minister, led students in a special prayer service on Thursday morning. Following the prayers, students left their classrooms and walked to the front of the school on 99th Street, where they tied red ribbons around the school's front gate to symbolize solidarity with the kidnapped girls.
“As we sit here this morning, we are painfully aware that all but for geography, it could have been one of us,” Uzzi-Silverio said during prayer service. She asked for God’s blessing for “the people of Nigeria and to keep them safe from civil unrest and religious persecution.”
Ugonna Nwabueze, a Fontbonne Hall senior, whose family is originally from Nigeria, said her family has been inundated with calls from friends who are still in that country expressing alarm about what is going on there. Boko Haram kidnapped the girls because the terrorist group “is seeing to maintain relevance,” in a country that doesn’t respect them, according to Ugonna, who said the people of Nigeria wish to be free of terrorism.
Ugonna expressed concern that Boko Haram members would “rape, torture and sell these girls.”
The students and faculty also recited the Rosary.
Everyone then went outside to tie the ribbons around the gate. Principal Mary Ann Spicijaric, Vice Principal Gilda King, Director of Admissions Noelle Gray and Uzzi-Silverio joined the students in the ribbon tying exercise.
Uzzi-Silverio later posted a message on her Facebook page urging Fontbonne Hall students who might have missed the prayer service to ask for a red ribbon and to tie the ribbon to the school gate. She also asked students to take a selfie of the ribbon tying and post it to social media to spread awareness of the campaign.
Fontbonne Hall students have taken selfies of themselves holding the #BringBackOurGirls signs as part of a social media awareness campaign started by First Lady Michelle Obama, who posted a photo of herself holding the sign on her official twitter account.
The outpouring of support for the kidnapped girls is coming from all corners of the globe and from people of all political stripes. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that all of the female members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, have banded together to raise awareness of the situation in Nigeria, where Boko Haram is seeking to snuff out education for women. There are reports that the terrorist organization plans to sell the kidnapped girls into slavery.
Eleven female senators posed for a picture holding a large sign with #BringBackOurGirls in red letters, which many of the participants posted on their Twitter accounts.
Last week, several senators held a private dinner with Secretary of State John Kerry and offered suggestions on how to respond to the crisis. The suggestions included: having the United Nations designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization on its Al Qaeda sanctions list; providing surveillance to try to locate the missing girls; and offering to provide a team of Special Forces to locate and rescue the girls, The Times reported.