Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi released a statement on Thursday calling for the release of roughly 200 girls kidnapped in northern Nigeria by Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
The abduction took place three weeks ago, drawing worldwide criticism and an international appeal on social media under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Lombardi called the kidnapping a "denial of any respect for life," and offered prayers for Nigeria to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing violence.
Lombardi's full statement said:
The kidnapping of a large number of young girls by terrorists from Boko Haram can be added to the other hideous forms of violence that have long characterized the activity of this group in Nigeria.
The denial of any respect for life and for the dignity of the people, even the most innocent, vulnerable and defenseless, requires the strongest condemnation and arouses the most heartfelt compassion for the victims, and for the horror of the physical and spiritual suffering and incredible humiliations that are imposed on them.
We join the many appeals for their release, and their return to a normal condition of life. We hope and pray that Nigeria, through the efforts of all those who can contribute, can find the way to put an end to a situation of conflict and hateful terrorism, the source of untold suffering.
Muslim leaders around the world have blasted Boko Haram for crimes that, as Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb said, "completely contradict Islam and its principles of tolerance." Some also criticize Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for failing to take proper action toward finding and returning the girls to their homes.