Leah Sharibu has endured much at the hands of Boko Haram. In 2015, these Islamic fundamentalists pledged allegiance to ISIS and became ISIS-West Africa. Besides other atrocities, they have destroyed churches and murdered thousands of Christians.
Before their ISIS affiliation, Boko Haram specialized in kidnapping children for extortion. According to a report by CNN, Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 1,000 children since 2013 and gained worldwide notoriety after the mass kidnapping of more than 200 girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014.
If the parents could pay, the girls were released. Now it seems extortion has expanded into execution. On September 18, 2018, the group stated in a video showing the execution of Saifura Khosa, a midwife with the International Red Cross, that Leah would be killed the following month.
Her crime: she refused to renounce her Christian faith. It’s actually not a crime because there is supposedly “no compulsion in Islam” yet this faction of Boko Haram demands her submission to Islam before she can be freed.
Leah was one of 112 girls abducted from their all-female boarding school in Dapchi, Nigeria. Weeks later, government officials negotiated the release of 104 of the hostages. Six of the girls died in captivity and one escaped. That left Leah as the lone captive from Dapchi.
Some of the rescued girls explained how Leah refused to deny her faith despite her schoolmates’ pleas to give up Christianity and return home with them. “I am a Christian,” they reported she kept telling the terrorists, even after being threatened to accept Islam.
Leah’s father, Nathan, has pleaded with the Nigerian government to rescue her. Eight months after the abduction, the family finally heard from President Muhammadu Buhari, who told them by phone every effort would be taken to rescue her. This is the same man who promoted Sharia law before campaigning for president.
Leah’s father was losing hope of ever seeing his daughter again. “We are very sad. The house is quiet,” he said. “We are so worried… We want the government to please help us. I believe they can rescue her if they want to. They can get her out if they try enough. They should please not allow her to get killed.”
Leah’s bold stance is reminiscent of the early Church martyrs and has inspired many across Nigeria.
Emmanuel Ogebe, a human rights activist who assisted in the relocation of some of the released Chibok girls to homes in the US, believes Leah’s case has heroic appeal. He told Christianity Today: “She is the modern-day heroine of the faith… everyone can understand clearly Leah’s case–which is that she is a Christian child being held hostage for her faith.”
While the brave jihadists of Boko Haram continue to terrorize children, girls like Leah Sharibu overflow with hero virtue. An inspiration for us all.
* Petition: Dear God, watch over courageous girls like Leah, and help us to stand strong as well.