Pray for Leah Sharibu
14 May will mark Leah’s third birthday as a captive of the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, an offshoot of the notorious Boko Haram terrorist group.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide and others continue to call on the Nigerian government to do everything in its power to ensure Leah’s immediate and unconditional release. CSW calls on Christians to pray for Leah's release
As the world continues to contend with the coronavirus, there are many for whom COVID-19 is just one more threat on top of many others they have faced for years, and for whom threats to their lives and livelihoods are likely to continue long after the pandemic has passed.
This is indeed the case for many Christians in northern and central Nigeria. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) receives news of attacks, abductions and intimidations from these areas on a near daily basis. Church leaders are particularly vulnerable. A Christian girl called Leah Sharibu has come to represent the plight of many in her country.
Pray for Leah
On 14 May Leah turns 17 years old, but there will be no celebrations. The date will mark Leah’s third birthday as a captive of the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), an offshoot of the notorious Boko Haram terrorist group.
Leah was one of 110 girls abducted from their school in Dapchi, Nigeria, on 19 February 2018. Five of them died in captivity. The following month the surviving girls were put into vehicles and returned to their families following government negotiations, but Leah was not among them.
The sole Christian in the group, Leah, who was just 14 at the time, was told she would be freed only if she renounced her faith and converted to Islam. However, in a show of inspiring and unwavering bravery, Leah refused. She has remained the terrorists’ captive ever since.
Leah shares her captivity with another Christian, nurse Alice Ngaddah, who was abducted with two other humanitarian workers in March 2018. In October 2018, following the execution of both of Alice’s Muslim colleagues for alleged apostasy, ISWAP declared that Leah and Alice would be their slaves for life.
Leah is still alive
In July 2019 ISWAP released a video in which an abducted aid worker implied both Leah and Alice had been executed. However, this was quickly discounted. Instead, reports indicate that both Leah and Alice are alive and well in spite of their circumstances. In an interview with Nigerian media in January 2020, another aid worker released by the terrorists reported that she had met Alice during her captivity, who confirmed that Leah is still alive and is currently being held at an undisclosed location.
It is in light of this knowledge that CSW and others continue to call on the Nigerian government to do everything in its power to ensure Leah’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as that of all those held by terrorist factions. Earlier this year Leah’s mother Rebecca joined a CSW-organised protest outside the Nigerian High Commission in London to mark the second anniversary of her abduction.
Mrs Sharibu delivered a petition signed by over 12,000 people to the High Commission, which called on the Nigerian government to take action. Addressing protesters gathered outside the High Commission, Mrs Sharibu urged them to continue praying until Leah is freed, and said that she was pleading with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari “to fulfil his promises that he has made to me personally, that he is going to rescue Leah and ensure that she is released, and not just Leah, all the others in captivity.”
Although current circumstances mean it is not possible to gather once again outside the High Commission to mark Leah’s 17th birthday, CSW and others will be doing everything they can to act on Mrs Sharibu’s encouragements, including by holding an online prayer event on the evening of 14 May, as well as encouraging churches to pray on Sunday 17 May.
Please join us in praying the words of Psalm 142:7 over Leah and her fellow captives: “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”
It is difficult to imagine what Leah has been through over the past two years, but her brave refusal to renounce her faith is a powerful inspiration to us all. Even at such a young age she has shown the same steadfast faith as that of those listed in Hebrews 11. As we continue to pray for Leah’s release, we must do so with that same faith, confident that she will one day be free to tell her story all over the world and inspire many more.