ABUJA, Nigeria, July 14 (UPI) -- Pakistani education rights activists Malala Yousafzai visited Nigeria Sunday to call for the safe return of more than 200 young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Malala met with the parents of the missing schoolgirls and said she could empathize with their situation.
"I can feel... the circumstances under which you are suffering," she said. "It's quite difficult for a parent to know that their daughter is in great danger. My birthday wish this year is... bring back our girls now, and alive."
Malala, who turned 17 on Saturday, met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to urge him to speak with the families as well. Jonathan has not met with the girls' relatives since they were abducted.
Malala said Boko Haram is acting in a similar manner as the Taliban by misusing Islam to deprive girls of an education.
"Boko Haram is misusing the name of Islam and it is saying that education is not the right of girls which is totally wrong. Islam has allowed both girls and boys to get education and education has been made compulsory. Islam gives the message of equality as well and the word "Islam" means peace. Islam is a religion of peace," she told the BBC.
The U.N. declared in 2013 that Malala's birthday would be deemed "Malala Day" -- a day dedicated to promoting equal rights to education. To mark the occasion, she penned an editorial for The Washington Post calling for all girls to have access to education.
"We are stronger than those who oppress us, who seek to silence us. We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty," she wrote. "My birthday wish this year is that we all raise our voices for those under oppression, to show our power and to demonstrate that our courage is stronger than their campaign of fear."