On 14 May, 2020, Leah Sharibu will have her 17th birthday, still in captivity, after ISWAP (an offshoot of Boko Haram) abducted her from her school in Dapchi, Nigeria, more than two years ago. Leah, who was 14 at the time of the abduction was among 110 other girls, who were then released a month later, following government negotiations. However, Leah, the only Christian among them, was not released because she refused to convert in exchange for her freedom.
Prayer for Leah’s 17th birthday
This year, on Leah’s 17th birthday, CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) will host an online prayer event to pray for Leah’s freedom, as well as freedom for all those like her who have been abducted. There will be contributions from Matt Redman, Rev. Yunusa Nmadu and Pete Greig. CSW is also encouraging churches to pray on Sunday 17 May.
Leah is still alive
In October 2018, eight months after Leah was abducted, ISWAP declared that she and one of her fellow hostages, Christian nurse, Alice Ngaddah, would be held as slaves for life. This was shortly after ISWAP had released videos depicting the executions of two humanitarian workers who had been abducted with Mrs. Ngaddah earlier that year, in March.
Then, on 15 January this year, ISWAP released five aid workers who had been abducted several weeks previously. Among them was Mrs. Jennifer Ukambong Samuel, who later told Nigerian media that she had met Mrs. Ngaddah during her captivity and that Mrs. Ngaddah told her that Leah was alive and well. Mrs. Ukambong also reported that Mrs. Ngaddah, who is now called Halima, provides injured terrorists with medical treatment and had asked for prayer for herself, Leah and another hostage called Grace Taku, adding that she had left everything to God.
Support for Leah
Throughout Leah’s captivity, CSW has staged multiple protests and prayer vigils outside the Nigerian High Commission in London. On the second anniversary of Leah’s abduction, in February 2020, Leah’s mother, Rebecca Sharibu joined a CSW-organised protest outside the High Commission, where she delivered a petition with 12,132 signatures to the High Commission, calling on the Nigerian government to take action to help Leah.
Additionally, British MP, David Linden, has repeatedly called on the British government to do everything in its power to help secure Leah’s release, including writing to the UK Prime Minister on International Women’s Day in 2019, and on the second anniversary of Leah’s abduction in February 2020.
Situation still tense
Reports coming in to CSW seem to indicate that the situation in Nigeria is still tense. Press and Public Affairs Team Leader at CSW, Kiri Kankhwende, said: “News of attacks on villages, killings and abductions for ransom by militia of Fulani origin in central Nigeria come in to CSW almost daily. It has not abated even amidst the Coronavirus lockdown. Clergy and their family members are particularly vulnerable. There is also deep dismay at the failure of the Nigerian authorities to address this violence and there is also suspicion that some in authority may be complicit in these atrocities.
“We are asking churches and Christians everywhere to join us on 14 May in praying Psalm 142:7 over Leah and all those who are still being held:
‘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.’ – Psalm 142: 7 (NIV)”
Kiri said: “Please pray:
- That Leah, Alice and all other hostages would be released.
- For God to protect them from the terrors of their surroundings.
- That the Lord will be a refuge and a comfort to Nathan, Rebecca and Donald Sharibu and every family like Leah’s, awaiting the return of their loved ones.
- For divine protection for villages in central Nigeria, and the release of those abducted for ransom.
- For CSW’s work, particularly with the UK government, at the UN, EU and in Nigeria itself, to challenge the government to address the ongoing crises effectively.”