[Pictured: Rebecca Sharibu and the Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam]
As the deadline set by the captives of Leah Sharibu nears, Open Doors is again calling for fervent and urgent prayer for kidnapped Nigerian teenager Leah Sharibu during this critical time.
On September 16, an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria released a video of an execution of a kidnapped Red Cross worker and issued an ultimatum to the government, threatening to kill Leah Sharibu and two other kidnapped AID workers.
Last week, Rebecca Sharibu took desperate steps, traveling to Jos to hold a press conference to bring her urgent plea to a mass audience for the release of her daughter, Leah Sharibu. Seven months ago, an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria extremists stormed a girls’ finishing school in Dapchi in Yobe state, kidnapping 110 girls. Within a month, all the girls were released through back-channel efforts except Leah—because she refused to renounce her faith in Christ.
“As we are approaching October 15, on Monday, I am pleading with the federal government, and the president, to hear my plea and the plea of Leah’s dad to secure the release of our daughter,” Rebecca said.
Watch footage from Rebecca Sharibu’s press conference:
In response to allegations that she had been behind a lawsuit against the Nigerian government, Rebecca publicly said she and her husband knew nothing about the lawsuit.
“I am not after money; all I want is my daughter to be released,” she said.
Leah’s father, Nathan, who was not able to travel to Jos due to his work, spoke to media by phone. He also reiterated his wife’s desperate call to the Nigerian government and the international community to secure Leah’s release.
He said that “since the kidnapping of our girl, the family has been very sad,” adding that her 13-year-old brother Donald, “who used to play, and do everything together with her, has been very affected by her absence, and he kept asking: ‘When Leah is going to come back?’
“As a father, I have to encourage him, saying: ‘By God’s grace, Leah can come back home anytime.’” Nathan added that he did not know whether the government and insurgents had been in negotiations.
The press conference was convened by Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, the Regional Secretary of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), who is at the heart of peace efforts between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria’s Middle Belt as founder of Citizens Monitoring Group (CMG).
Yesterday, for the first time since Leah’s capture, President Buhari spoke to Rebecca. Recalling his words to her, he tweeted:
Today I spoke with Mrs Rebecca Sharibu, to reiterate our determination to bring her daughter Leah back home safely. The thoughts & prayers of all Nigerians are with the Sharibu family, & the families of all those still in captivity. We will do everything we can to bring them back
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) October 3, 2018
It is the Sharibus’ first direct contact with any government official since the kidnapping over seven months ago. In May, Leah’s father accused the government of abandoning the family:
“I have not received any support from the government but from the community and church members. I thank God because they have been encouraging me, lifting me through their prayers, visitation and words of advice,” Nathan Sharibu said on Leah’s 15th birthday. “I have not heard anything from federal, state and local governments since my daughter was abducted. I am even confused now.”
Though our Nigeria team has met with the Sharibus, we have very little news at this time regarding Leah. Open Doors has followed the Sharibus’ story from day one of the Dapchi kidnappings and will continue to keep you updated on any news.
Father, we lift up Leah and these aid workers to you during this critical time. God, we ask that you would shake earth and heavens to bring 15-year-old Leah and these young women back to their families. God, we pray that you would comfort Leah’s family, Rebecca, Nathan and Donald with your peace. Give them strength to face each day. We pray for the Nigerian government and President Buhari–that they will be convicted to work diligently and do all they can to release all hostages. Pray that the international community will not remain silent on this, but will assist the government to fulfill their responsibilities towards these citizens. In Your Son’s name, we pray and ask for these things… #RememberLeah