World prays as Leah Sharibu marks 15th birthday in Boko Haram captivity

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*Leah, Buhari

The kidnapped teenage student of Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe, Miss Leah Sharibu, marks her 15th birthday today in Boko Haram captivity

She was among the 110 female secondary school students whisked away by Boko Haram insurgents from their hostels on February 19, 2018.

One month after the abduction, the federal government, through a series of “behind-the-scene discussion” negotiated and secured the release of 105 of them.

But Leah, who would have been the 106th girl to be freed, was held by her abductors because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.

The remaining four kidnapped schoolgirls were reported to have died in the hands of their captors

Shortly after the return of the 105 students, the federal government pledged to ensure that “the lone girl was not abandoned.”

“The Buhari administration will not relent in efforts to bring Leah Sharibu safely back home to her parents as it has done for the other girls.

“President Buhari is fully conscious of his duty under the Constitution to protect all Nigerians, irrespective of faith, ethnic background or geopolitical location and will not shirk in this responsibility,” President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, had said in a statement.

However, for almost three months down the line, the last about the girls release is yet to be heard.

Speaking when he hosted Justin Webly, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Abuja House in London in April, Buhari said his government had been working to secure Leah’s release.

“We are managing the matter quietly. Making noise would not help. We are collecting as much intelligence as possible, working with the Red Cross and other international organizations.

“There are too many fraudulent people around, who claim they can do this and that. We won’t deal with them. That was how we got the Dapchi girls back, and the Chibok girls,” he said.

Reacting to the continued detention of teenager, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, (CSN) described her situation as a demonstration of increased hostilities against the Christian religion in Nigeria, as well as in other parts of the world.

Leah’s father Nathan Sharibu pleaded again with the federal government to ensure the safe release of his daughter.

“Up till now, we have not seen our daughter. I am asking the government to please try and bring my daughter back safe. They should please help us,” said Sharibu.

However, he expressed appreciation to Nigerians, both Muslims and Christians, for their prayers and called for more supplication to ensure the release of his daughter.

“I thank all those Muslims and Christians who have prayed for us. They should please say more prayers for my daughter,” Sharibu added.

In a message by spokesperson for the Bring Back Our girls, (BBOG) group, Sesugh Akumeh, the group said Leah will be marking her 15th birthday today (Monday).

Sharibu who confirmed the information to be true said “yes today is her birthday.”

Meanwhile, Christian groups in Nigeria, United States, United Kingdom and other parts of the world are conducting special prayers to ‘celebrate’ Leah’s birthday.

Statements by the US-based rights activist, Mr. Emmanuel Ogebe and Khataza Gondwe, the Team Leader, Africa and Middle East of UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) which work for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights in the pursuit of justice confirm the involvement of several groups and individuals across the world.

CSW said it had planned a solidarity action to raise the profile of her case.

“We will be sending out an official tweet to mark the day, which we are asking people to retweet so we can get #FreeLeah trending; we are also asking people to send their own tweets using #FreeLeah along with #Dapchigirls, and if possible, attaching a picture of themselves holding A4 or A3 signs with the words “#FreeLeah” on them, which we will retweet.

“Similar actions can also be taken via Facebook; please join us in standing in solidarity with  this courageous young girl , in calling for her release and in upholding her right to freedom of religion or belief  and to education, and please spread the word so others join in too,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide stated .

US-based lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe who had himself suffered detention under the Abacha administration emphasized that many prayer groups are hopeful that God can touch the heart of Leah’s captors, adding that other Nigerians should join in the global prayer efforts.

“Leah could have been freed on March 21st, 2018 but instead, she chose not to deny Christ and is now in captivity due to her faith in Jesus Christ; because of the uncommon courage for a girl her age, Leah’s case now represents a defining moment in the persecution of Christians in Nigeria and around the world.

“Let us join in marking Leah’s birthday by praying and working together for her release; let us also remember the Chibok girls and many others, both Christian and Muslim, also kidnapped by Boko Haram and still in captivity.

“Through God’s mercy and grace, may they soon all be set free; Psalm 125:1-2 says those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore,” said CSW.

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