One Year Later, Leah Sharibu Remains in Boko Haram Captivity

February 19, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Africa

Speaking through tears at a recent press conference, the mother of 15-year-old Boko Haram captive Leah Sharibu pleaded with Nigeria’s government to rescue her daughter … “my Leah.” It has been 365 days since Rebecca has seen or spoken to her daughter face-to-face.

Today, February 19, marks one full year since Leah was abducted along with more than 100 of her classmates by the extremist group, Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), a sect of known Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Since her abduction, the young girl has become globally known and held up as a stalwart of the Christian faith.

Two months after ISWAP militants stormed the Government Girls Science and Technical College in the northeastern Nigerian town of Dapchi, all of the girls in captivity were released through back-channel efforts–except Leah Sharibu. She refused to deny Christ and convert to Islam.

Rebecca Sharibu shared with an Open Doors team member what one of the released girls had told her:

“Leah was told to say some Islamic incantations before she would be allowed onto the truck. But she refused. She said, ‘I will never say it because I am not a Muslim.’ They became angry and told her if she wouldn’t denounce Christ, she would remain with them. Still, Leah refused. We watched Leah being left alone with the other members. We kept crying and waving at her ’til the truck vanished.”

Christians Speak Out for Leah Sharibu

Christians protest the ongoing captivity of Leah Sharibu. (Photo: CSW)

On the one-year anniversary, Christians organized by Christian Solidarity World (CSW) gathered in London outside the Nigerian High Commission to protest Leah’s ongoing captivity.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: ”We continue to call on the government of Nigeria to do everything in its power to expedite the release of this courageous schoolgirl, alongside that of her fellow hostages.

“We also call on the government of Nigeria to ensure that the army is sufficiently equipped to combat Boko Haram effectively, particularly in light of the surge in activity by both factions, and their threat to undermine the electoral process.” (Nigeria’s presidential elections were scheduled for February 17 but were unexpectedly delayed and postponed until February 23).

In a statement, Zoe Smith, head of advocacy at Open Doors UK emphasized the double vulnerability of Christian girls and women in areas where Christians are persecuted for their faith.

Leah Sharibu was kidnapped because she was a girl and held captive because she was a Christian,” Smith said. “She personifies the incredibly vulnerable position of Christian women in northern Nigeria. It is saddening and outrageous that Leah remains in captivity, abused as a PR tool and negotiating pawn. We urge the Nigerian government and the international community to increase their efforts to secure her release and reunite her safely with her family.”

Five Months Since Any News or Pictures of Leah Sharibu

In August, militants released a photo of Leah Sharibu in captivity–the only picture of her in the last year since her abduction in February.

It has been five months since any information about Leah has been released. In mid-October, a month after threatening to kill Leah Sharibu and Christian mother of two Alice Ngaddah (one of three aid workers kidnapped in a separate attack), militants released a violent video of the killing of  24-year-old aid worker, Hauwa Leman, and vowed to keep Leah and Alice “slaves for life.”

“From today, Sharibu and Ngaddah are now our slaves. Based on our doctrines, it is now lawful for us to do whatever we want to do with them,” the group said in the video.

In August, a 35-second audio recording was published by Nigeria’s online newspaper The Cable. In what is believed to be a scripted message, Leah made a passionate plea to the Nigerian government for her freedom in her native Hausa language. Photos of her in a light brown hijab sitting on a mat in an undisclosed location were also released—the most recent photo of her since her abduction.

Almost a year ago, when Leah realized she would not be freed with the other kidnapped girls, she quickly scribbled a message to her mother and sent it with a classmate:

“My mother you should not be disturbed,” she wrote. “ I know it is not easy missing me, but I want to assure you that I am fine where I am … I am confident that one day I shall see your face again. If not here, then there at the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is the only time Rebecca has heard from her daughter in unscripted text in 10 months.

In its nine-year insurgency, Boko Haram has reportedly claimed more than 20,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people.

Praying Fervently for Leah Sharibu and Family

Parents of Leah Sharibu: Rebecca and Natha

Pray for God’s protection over Leah physically, mentally and spiritually. We pray that not a hair on this young girl’s head would be touched or harmed. Ask God to reveal to her a vision of His army of warrior angels as they surround her.

Pray for the other hostages with Leah, especially Alice Loksha Ngaddah. God, we ask for her protection and that these two believers would find comfort and courage in each other, praying together.

Pray for strength–that Leah and Alice would be reminded of Your promise to never leave or forsake them. We pray for Your words to flow through their minds.

Pray for peace. We pray for calmness of spirit that only God can provide. Ask God to give Leah, Alice and their families enduring patience, to place peace that passes all our understanding in their hearts and as others see that peace, many will come to know Christ.

Pray for a bold witness. Ask God to be Leah’s and Alice’s light in this darkness and make their lives living testimonies. May their witness be so profound to their captors’ eyes, ears and hearts that they would be opened to the truth.

Pray for comfort. Ask God to be tangibly close to Leah, Alice and their families–that His presence would give them peace, comfort, strength, faith, and even joy as they set their eyes on Him.

Pray for rescue. Pray that God would open closed doors to bring Leah, Alice and the rest of the captives home to their families. Ask God to work a miracle so divine that it would astound her captors and lead many of them to Him. We ask that their captors’ eyes might be open to the heavenly realm and the myriad of angels surrounding them.

Pray for the families of the executed midwives. Ask God to comfort them and provide for them in ways they could never imagine.

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

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! (Ephesians 3: 20-21)

Leave your prayers for Leah and her family at our Leah Sharibu Prayer Wall where hundreds of believers have shared their hearts and words, interceding and groaning for her return.