On Saturday, four years to the day that Leah Sharibu was taken, she won’t be forgotten—at least by her family and her advocates who continue to work and pray for her release from the hands of Islamic terrorists.
On Feb. 19, 2018, Boko Haram terrorists stormed a government school in Dapchi, Nigeria, kidnapping 110 female students, including Sharibu, then 14. In the ensuing hours, five of the girls died, reportedly from injuries sustained as they were moved across the country. A month later, in March 2018, the terrorists released all of the remaining girls—except Sharibu.
Her captors, who have forged ties with the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have threatened to hold Sharibu as a “slave for life” for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.
On Saturday (Feb. 19), the date of her kidnapping four years ago, the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) along with the Leah Foundation, an organization created to raise awareness of Sharibu’s case, will mark the anniversary by hosting a livestreamed event called “#Free Leah: Four Years a Captive,” at noon ET on YouTube. Guests will include Sharibu’s parents, Nathan and Rebecca Sharibu, and others including former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson; Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins; the Colson Center’s John Stonestreet; anti-trafficking activist Anne Basham; British Parliament members David Alton and Caroline Cox; and Nigerian Christian leaders.
The livestream will include updates on Sharibu’s status as well as messages and prayers from many of Sharibu’s friends, an ICON news release said.
“We appreciate your support for all Nigerians, but especially for being an advocate of Leah Sharibu, Boko Haram kidnap victim. There are credible reports that she is still alive but February 19, 2022, will mark 4 years of Leah’s captivity,” ICON said. “Please help the world to not forget Leah Sharibu and other girls like her that are still in captivity in Nigeria.”
Perkins, a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) who advocates for Sharibu as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience Project, said: “Four years ago, Leah Sharibu was forcibly taken from her family and loved ones. ISWAP must free Leah Sharibu so she can reunite with her family, resume her education, and live a life of dignity of which she is most deserving.
“The United States should pressure the Nigerian government to secure the release of Leah Sharibu and other kidnapped girls and take proactive measures to make sure that no other generation is subjected to the same fate,” Perkins added.
Last November, the Biden administration removed Nigeria’s designation as a “Country of Particular Concern,” drawing a rebuke from the government’s own USCIRF. In its 2021 annual report on global religious freedom, the USCIRF has asked the State Department to reapply the CPC label to Nigeria for its years-long failure to rein in what many label a genocide against Christians by Islamic militants such as ISWAP, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.
In the last decade, Islamists have killed an estimated 35,000 Nigerian Christians, burned villages and destroyed thousands of churches and Christians schools. The Muslim-majority government has denied that the killings amount to genocide and has been slow to respond to diplomatic pressure.
Nigeria ranks seventh on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the most dangerous countries for Christians.
Above: Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah Sharibu, a schoolgirl abducted by Boko Haram in 2018, attends a news conference at the Pope John Paul II Catholic Center in Abuja, Nigeria, Feb. 10, 2019.
Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/Alamy Stock Photo