Breaking: Nigerian presidential team confirms Leah Sharibu is alive

September 3, 2019 by Christopher Summers in Persecution updates

It’s been over a month since we first told you about the unconfirmed report that Leah Sharibu, the 16-year-old Nigerian student who was kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2018, had been killed. When all the other schoolgirls kidnapped with her were released, Leah remained in captivity because of her Christian faith. And when this latest report came out, many observers feared the worst.

As reported by Nigerian outlet Naija News, presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu released a statement, saying:

“Lines of communications remain open with the kidnappers, ISWAP [Islamic State West African Province, the Boko Haram splinter group that carried out the kidnapping], to secure the release of Leah Sharibu.

“Contrary to false reports, she is alive—given assurances from our security agencies—and the government is committed to her safe return, as well as all other hostages to their families.

Find out why Nigeria is #12 on the 2019 World Watch List

“Kidnapping for ransom should never be encouraged. This means not capitulating to the demands of terrorists: refrain from rewarding their heinous crimes with payment.

“With the abduction of a loved family (members) and friends, the government understands how difficult these times are for them, but the government is pursuing many options to ensure the safe return of Leah Sharibu.

“We must commit to law and communication, using the breadth of strategies at our disposal: legal initiatives, stakeholder cooperation, involvement of all relevant parties and the use of the latest hostage negotiation techniques.”

We praise God for Leah’s life and His protection. She remains in captivity with the ISWAP group, but for now it is reassuring that the Nigerian government has confirmed she is still alive.

How we can pray

Ever since Leah refused to say Muslim prayers and renounce her faith in Christ on the trucks that would take the other kidnapped girls to freedom and her deeper into captivity, Open Doors has shared Leah’s story.

Rebecca Sharibu, Leah’s mother

An Open Doors team was with Leah’s mother, Rebecca, as she pleaded, “Please, don’t stop praying for my Leah.” Open Doors teams have carried your letters of encouragement to the Sharibus. This is a family of believers who are just like your family, and every time we bring you an update, we are amazed and thankful to see God’s family at work. 

With many of you, we’ve been praying for the Sharibu family for more than 500 days. We are praying that we will one day get the opportunity to report Leah’s safe return to her family. But for now, we’re thankful for the opportunity to tell you about this hopeful report. In many ways, this is truly what it feels like to be a family—praying together and grieving together as one Church. When one part of the body suffers, as the apostle Paul writes, we all suffer (1 Cor. 12:26).

Please continue to pray with us for the Sharibus. Share your prayers on our Prayer Wall for Leah Sharibu where hundreds of Christians like you have written their words for Leah and her parents, Rebecca and Natha. By gathering together virtually, we join our hearts and voices as a global Church—as a global Family. #OneChurch.OneFamily

Specifically, please continue to pray with us in the following ways:

  • Pray with Leah’s parents—Rebecca and Natha—and the rest of her family. And remember the husband and children of kidnapped Christian aid worker Alice Ngaddah. Pray these families would sense God’s presence and peace in transcendent ways we can’t imagine.
  • Pray the Nigerian government will continue to engage with the group holding Leah hostage, and that she quickly will be released unharmed.
  • Pray that God will protect Leah. This report will undoubtedly bring more attention to her story and may, in fact, put her at further risk.
  • Pray the Nigerian government takes prompt and decisive action to protect religious minorities and to make honest efforts to hold violators to justice.

And if you sense God leading you to stand with Christians in at-risk areas like northeastern Nigeria and beyond, you can find more information here.

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