Wednesday 19 February marks two years since Christian teenager, Leah Sharibu, was kidnapped along with over 100 other girls from her school in Dapchi, Nigeria, by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram. Today, only Leah continues to be held captive by the group. As the girls were being released, Leah’s Christian faith was discovered. She was given the choice, convert to Islam and go free, or stick with Jesus and remain in captivity. Leah chose Jesus.
Last summer, we asked you to sign the Handmade Petition, to say that you stand alongside Leah and other Christian women and girls who are vurnerable to persecution because of their faith and gender. Amazingly over 12,000 of you did! Two years on from her abduction, Open Doors spoke to Reverend Gideon Para-Malam, who has been supporting Leah’s family since the beginning of their ordeal.
Gideon explains: “I provide pastoral care and support for the family, not necessarily as their local church pastor, but as a Christian brother who is concerned for the persecuted church in Nigeria”.
“We have built a supportive community around the family. I try to talk to them as often as possible and pray with them. When we talk over the phone, I use the opportunity to pray for them and Leah, to encourage and remind them that people have not forgotten about their daughter. They need reassurance that the world, and God, has not forgotten about their family’s plight, because it is true, people from all over the world are praying for them and for Leah to be returned.”
Reverend Gideon says that Leah’s family are living in uncertainty: “We don’t know for sure where she is and exactly what has happened to Leah – that uncertainty is difficult.”
We asked Gideon what supporters can do to continue to stand with Leah’s family.
He replied, “Firstly, we must pray constantly. This is also my commitment. It is important that we, their faith family, keep praying… I encourage the global community to pray… Pray that He brings Leah home. And in the meantime, we continue to pray for Leah to be strong. She is an example to all of us; she was kidnapped and because she refused to deny Christ and convert to Islam, she is now held against her will. We pray that God will continue to strengthen Leah’s faith and that the captors will be touched by Leah’s persistence and faith in God.
“Please pray for her parents and younger brother and all the other families that are affected by these kidnappings. Pray that the president and Nigerian government will act and put plans in motion to secure the release of Leah and all the other Nigerians who are held captive.
“Then, secondly, we must keep the conversation going about what is happening in Nigeria [and West Africa]… This is unacceptable and the international community should speak up.”
Rebecca, Leah’s mum, was in London on the anniversary of her daughter’s abduction. Open Doors spoke to her and she recorded this message for all those who have been praying. Incredibly, she also says that she is praying for Leah’s abductors, and would forgive them: “I forgive them, because the Lord has asked me to forgive them and He has told us to forgive.” Gloria, President of the Leah Sharibu Foundation, translated for Rebecca.
Father God, please bring Leah home. Make a way for her to return safely to her family. I pray she is standing strong, still knowing and relying on your love and comfort. Give her hope and courage. Strengthen her faith and let her be an incredible example to her captors. Be with her mum, dad and brother. Give them peace. I pray the Nigerian government will do all it can to secure Leah’s release. Amen.
Nigeria is ranked at number 12 on the 2020 Open Doors World Watch List. While about half of the population in Nigeria are Christians, there are 12 states in the north that are largely Islamic and ruled by Sharia law, which makes life very hard for Christians. The radical Islamic group, Boko Haram, frequently raid Christian villages in the north of the country, causing chaos and death. In these northern states, many Christians are dressing like Muslims as the only way to reduce the chances of being attacked. Christians in these states are frequently denied access to higher education, and are sometimes asked to give up their faith in order to get work.
Want to learn more about, and get inspired by, the brave faith of Christians living in some of the places most opposed to following Jesus? Get our awesome new 2020 World Watch List prayer map and stickers – it’s free. Plus we have an awesome session outline for youth leaders which includes a massive A1 map too. Get them for free at the link below:
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.