Christian Teen Leah Sharibu Turns 15, Still a Captive of Boko Haram
Leah Sharibu has been a captive of Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram for over 80 days. On Monday, she turned 15 in their clutches.
Leah was kidnapped with over 100 schoolmates in February. Today, she’s the last of the Dapchi girls in captivity. According to reports from her now-freed friends, she was given a chance to go home. The condition? She must convert to Islam. The only Christian of the group, she refused.
Nigerian Government ‘Completely Ineffective’
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said last month he is working “quietly” with Boko Haram to free Leah.
“We are collecting as much intelligence as possible,” Buhari said, according to WorldWatch Monitor. He said he’s working with international organizations like the Red Cross. “That was how we got the Dapchi girls back, and the Chibok girls.”
Close to 300 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in Nigeria, a majority of them Christians, were captured by Boko Haram in 2014. Many were finally returned to their families. But over 100 are still missing.
In April, Buhari announced that disagreements between Boko Haram members caused “unexpected setbacks” in negotiations for their release.
Nathan Johnson is International Christian Concern’s (ICC) Regional Manager for Africa. He said that whatever Buhari is doing for Leah, it “has proven completely ineffective.” ICC advocates for persecuted Christians around the globe.
“Just like with the Chibok girls, the Nigerian government has been unable to successfully work with Boko Haram in freeing Christians in a timely manner,” he said in an email to The Stream. “It took Buhari and his government less than three months to secure the release of more than 100 Muslim girls from the same abduction as Leah.” He said the government has failed to give updates about Leah’s possible return.
Worry at Home
Rebecca Sharibu, Leah’s mother, told a CNN reporter that no government official has visited her. “Only Christian organizations have been coming to see us,” she said. “No one from government. We are on our own.”
According to the report, CNN’s Chika Oduah was the first journalist to visit Rebecca. When the other Dapchi girls returned, she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital upon learning Leah was not with them. She’s at home now. But she’s worried.
“When my daughter comes back, I will not allow her to go to that school again,” she said. Leah and the others were originally kidnapped from a school for girls in Dapchi. Boko Haram’s name is loosely translated to mean “Western education is a sin.” ICC’s Johnson told The Stream Leah’s brother is continuing school after being moved to a safer location.
Johnson previously told The Stream that awareness is a key factor in securing release of captives like Leah. He noted the Chibok girls were only freed after the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign made news.
Now, activists are urging people to use the hashtag #FreeLeah. Christian Solidarity Worldwide is asking social media users to post photos holding signs with the same message. ICC president Jeff King previously asked people to call the Nigerian embassy in their country to ask for Leah’s release.
ICC previously stated that Leah was 15. A statement from Christian Solidarity Worldwide as reported by The Guardian claimed Leah turned 15 on May 14, 2018.