July 18 will mark 150 days of Boko Haram captivity for Leah.
July 18 will mark 150 days of Boko Haram captivity for Leah Sharibu.
The 15-year-old is one of 110 girls captured in Dapchi, a village in Nigeria, in February. Most of the girls were later released (some died in captivity). But Leah remains with the terrorist organization.
Her schoolmates said Boko Haram refused to release her for one reason. She was the only Christian in the group. And she remained steadfast amid her captors’ efforts to convert her to Islam.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is asking believers around the world to pray for Leah for 24 hours on July 18. The UK-based organization has a sign-up sheet so participants can pray for certain blocks of time. The group is also encouraging people to sign a petition and send an email asking for Leah’s release.
‘Fallen to the Back-Burner’
Nathan Johnson is the Africa regional manager for International Christian Concern (ICC). Shortly after returning from a trip to Nigeria in early July, he spoke with The Stream. There were few updates about Leah’s situation, he said.
In May, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he was working “quietly” for her release. But according to Johnson, “it’s kind of fallen to the back-burner for Nigeria.” That’s “pretty awful considering they were able to get 104 of the girls released pretty quickly.”
Johnson admitted anti-Christian animus could be influencing the government. But it could also be “bigger issues” in Nigeria. He noted increasing Boko Haram and Fulani violence.
All of this is diverting attention away from Leah’s predicament.
“I’m pretty doubtful at this point that she’s going to be coming back without major intervention or payoff,” Johnson said. Boko Haram has little incentive to release her. It’s “scary,” he added.
Pray, Call, Tweet
That doesn’t mean people are giving up. Right now, Johnson said ICC is attempting to establish contact with Leah’s family in order to assist them. Earlier this week, the UK government offered to help Nigeria secure Leah’s release. And as evidenced by the CSW prayer campaign, the world has not forgotten the teen.
“My hope is that she’s alive and well,” Johnson said. But he guesses she is going through “pretty heavy” conversion attempts, at the least. At worst, she is enduring torture and sexual abuse.
For people who want to help Leah, “definitely be praying,” Johnson said. “That can have effects far-reaching.” He also suggested contacting the Nigerian embassy in your nation, or tweeting Nigerian officials like President Buhari.
Talking about Leah on social media is key. An “influx of people talking about it” and pressuring Nigerian officials will bring Leah back to the forefront of the government’s concerns, he said.