Just over four years ago, on 19 February 2018, 14-year-old Leah Sharibu was among 110 students kidnapped from their school in Yobe State, Nigeria, by Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). Tragically, one girl died in captivity. The others were released within a month, but Leah was kept because she bravely refused to deny Jesus.
Leah turns 19 this year. Despite government assurances that she will be freed, the agonising wait goes on for her and her parents, Rebecca and Nathan.
In January 2022, General Lucky Irabor, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, reassured Leah’s parents in an interview on Nigerian television that ‘concrete plans are being put in place to secure the release of not only Leah, but all those being held captive by terrorists’.
“There have been several such promises before,” explains Jo Newhouse*, Open Doors spokesperson for work in Africa. “One would therefore not blame Leah’s parents for curbing their excitement over such statements.”
In 2018, during a visit to the USA, President Buhari pledged to secure Leah’s freedom. Further assurances from the government emerged in 2019, around which time they also issued a denial that Leah had been killed. In December 2020, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters’ Director of Information, said he was unaware of any negotiation for the release of Leah, but said discussions could be being held at a higher level.
Given the global coverage around Leah Sharibu, it may seem that her story is unique. Sadly, the reality is that there are thousands of ‘Leahs’ whose names we may never know.
Kidnapping has been an issue in Nigeria for many years, and is increasing. It makes for a horribly bleak picture as far as Christian women and young girls are concerned, particularly in northern Nigeria but also increasingly in the south. Christian communities have been terrorised by Boko Haram, Fulani militants and ISWAP, as well as armed bandits.
More Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world. The same applies to faith-based kidnapping, with the country accounting for two-thirds of cases worldwide. In total, the number of Christians abducted in Nigeria last year was 2,510 – an increase of more than 150% on the previous year. Nigeria is number seven on the Open Doors World Watch List 2022.
“I have not lost hope because God is in control and people are praying,” said Rebecca Sharibu in an interview last year. “I have the hope that one day, I will see my daughter again.”
Would you like to tell Leah’s parents that you are praying for them? You can do just that sending a postcard to let them know that they are in your hearts and prayers – see below to find out how at the link below…
1. Learn more and pray: Get our free glow-in-the-dark World Watch List Map and find out more about the places where faith costs the most. Get your map here…
2. Pray regularly: Every Monday night at 7pm we’ll be praying one prayer for one minute for the one in seven Christians around the world who face persecution. Set an alarm and tune in…
3. Choose to Lose: Raise money by getting sponsored to lose something you love for a short time. Sign up and we’ll send you a fundraising pack…
*Name changed for security reasons
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.