In February of 2018, Boko Haram insurgents abducted 110 students from a girls’ boarding school in Dapchi, Yobe state, Nigeria. Five students were killed while being held captive and four weeks after the abduction, 104 of the girls were released. One student, 14-year old Leah Sharibu, did not return and is still held captive because of her refusal to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.
During a press conference in Washington, DC a few months ago, Gloria Puldu, President of The Leah Foundation, explained why Leah was singled out. “The other girls, who are all Muslim girls, were released. When Leah was told to renounce her faith and recite the Kalima-e-Shahadah—’Kalima-e-Shahadah’ means the Islamic faith creed—she refused to do that,” Puldu said. “That was the only reason that she was kept back.”
When her friends were released Leah sent a message to her mother, saying: “My mother you should not be disturbed. 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.”
The European Centre for Law and Justice recently submitted a written statement to the Human Rights Council at the United Nations on the deteriorating situation in Nigeria. Here is an excerpt:
The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that since 2014 Boko Haram’s terrorist activities have internally displaced nearly 2 million Nigerians, and created 240,000 refugees. In addition, it is estimated that Boko Haram has killed more than 37,500 people. Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to ISIS and utilizes its tactics of mass killings and kidnappings to instill fear and intimidate. They target Christians and anyone else whom they see as a threat to the establishment of an Islamic State.
Boko Haram’s atrocities have no limit. Horrific examples of its cruelty include executing 59 boys in their sleep and burning down their school, utilizing mob violence to target Christians, and using fake preachers to massacre innocent worshipers. These and countless other acts of terror and senseless sectarian violence provide an example of the gruesome and dehumanizing atrocities targeting Christians and others who are vulnerable.
In a video released exactly one year ago (October 2018), Boko Haram warned that Leah Sharibu will be a “slave for life.” “Based on our doctrines, it is now lawful for us to do whatever we want to do with her,” the group said.
Since Leah has been held by Boko Haram, her family and friends have done everything they could to get the attention of the federal and local governments in Nigeria. And they traveled to the United States to plead with the U.S. government in hopes of prompting action. During testimony given at a June 2019 hearing held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Gloria Puldu and Leah’s mother, Rebecca Sharibu, asked that we stand in solidarity in seeking worldwide action to free Leah from the captivity of Boko Haram.
You can stand in solidarity by participating in a global prayer vigil scheduled for this Saturday, October 26, 2019.
- Visit https://www.pray4leah.org/ for details
- Read USCIRF Prisoner of Conscience statement about Leah.
- Learn about The Leah Foundation