Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Tom Zirpoli: Movements start by simply caring

Who would have thought that a simple tweet could focus the world's attention on a crisis in a remote part of the world? But #BringBackOurGirls, a message of outrage over the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian girls from their schools and homes, has done just that.

Prior to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, the government of Nigeria wasn't even looking for its kidnapped girls. It is now. International attention on the most recent kidnapping incidents, because of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, forced the Nigerian government to act and to accept international assistance in its efforts to find the girls. Even China is helping.

The Boko Haram militant group claims responsibility for the latest kidnapping. It is an ultra-conservative group and its name, Boko Haram, means "Western education is a sin." They, as well as other conservative groups in Nigeria, are against the provision of education for girls.

A second reason for the kidnapping is that the Boko Haram group wants the Nigerian government to negotiate a prisoner swap in an effort to have some of its members released from Nigerian prisons. So far, the Nigerian government has refused to negotiate with the kidnappers. However, the government has negotiated with them in the past. Paul Cruickshank, CNN analyst, reported that the Nigerian government recently negotiated with Boko Haram for the release of a dozen girls in exchange for 100 imprisoned members.

Meanwhile, people around the world feel helpless, and while the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is partly a symbolic gesture, it has brought tremendous international pressure on the government of Nigeria to do something about the current situation, and it has brought attention to the plight of kidnapped girls in Nigeria and around the world.

But not everyone is a fan of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh stated, "The people on Twitter that are all behind the hashtag, they have no clue what's going on here. They think they're really getting behind the kidnapped girls and that they're really helping." Limbaugh doubted that by "simply caring" the campaign could make a difference. "It's pathetic," says Limbaugh.

Well, of course, making a difference in your neighborhood or around the world starts when someone or a group of people care enough about something to take action. Rotarians around the world, for example, cared about the effects of polio and went about the work of eradicating it. People reach out to those in need because they care. "Simply caring" is a prerequisite to taking action in order to help others. Perhaps Limbaugh should reflect on why he doesn't understand this concept.

Even Congress, not noted for doing much these days, has responded. On May 8 the International Violence Against Women Act was introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan group of senators. A companion bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Diane Boxer stated, "The recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian school girls underscores the horrific violence that too many women and girls across the globe face every day. The International Violence Against Women Act will make clear that ending discrimination and violence against women and girls is a top priority for the United States and central to our national security interests. The bill will ensure that the U.S. government has a comprehensive strategy in place to promote the rights and safety of women and girls around the world."

Nearly 300 organizations support the International Violence Against Women Act, including: Amnesty International USA, CARE USA and Human Rights Watch, as well as many faith-based organizations such as the American Jewish World Service, the Episcopal Church, Jewish Women International, Lutheran World Relief, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the National Council of Churches USA.

It seems that simply caring is alive and well in America and around the world. It is a start.