A Tragic Anniversary 15-Year-Old Leah Sharibu Has Been in Boko Haram Captivity for One Year | #FreeLeahSharibu
Save the Persecuted Christians Calls on Believers to Advocate for Leah’s Release and for the 300 Million Persecuted Worldwide
WASHINGTON—One year ago today, Nigerian Christian girl Leah Sharibu was captured by Boko Haram, one of the most violent terrorist groups in the world.
On Feb. 19, 2018, Leah, then 14 years old, and 109 of her female classmates, were kidnapped in Nigeria. Five girls died in captivity while 104 were released on March 20, 2018. Leah alone was not released because she refused to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ and convert to Islam, as demanded by her captors.
Christians around the world must come together to demand her release, says Save the Persecuted Christians, which advocates on behalf of 300 million Christians facing heavy persecution worldwide. For many months, STPC has been working mightily for Leah to be freed—and continues to do so on this sad one-year anniversary.
According to a new article in The Guardian, Leah’s family is pleading with the world not to forget their daughter, and especially crying out to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to secure her release.
“Besides the torment Leah is likely facing, her family has experienced incredible trauma as well,” said Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians. “Reports recently surfaced that Leah had been killed but were dismissed by the Nigerian government. This was not the first time that threats of her death were communicated. There is double persecution for women who are Christians in many of the countries on this year’s World Watch List, on which Nigeria is No. 12. We have seen our world fight as one for the release of Asia Bibi from Pakistan and Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey. Where is the American outcry for Leah?
“As American Christians,” Laugesen continued, “we can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening worldwide to Christians, and most especially Christian women and girls. Our SaveUs Movement urges all believers to tell others—family, friends and prayer groups—about Leah and spread awareness by using #FreeLeahSharibu on social media. We know that passionate public outcry for others was instrumental in similar releases—and believe it can make a difference for Leah, too.”
At a press conference last week, Leah’s mother, Rebecca, urged President Buhari not to renege on the promises he made to her by ensuring that her daughter is released.
“I am the mother of Leah and I am here begging the government not to forget my daughter,” Rebecca Sharibu said tearfully. “I want the government not to forget the promise made to us that my daughter would be set free. The president called me and we spoke on phone. He assured me that Leah would come back and that the government was working hard on it. He also sent three ministers who came and assured me that my daughter would return. After that, it was silence because we haven’t seen Leah. … I am begging the president not to forget the promises made to me by ensuring that my daughter is freed.”
Save the Persecuted Christians is also calling on the Trump administration to appoint a U.S. Special Envoy to Nigeria to coordinate U.S. agencies’ response to the genocidal attacks on Christians, which threaten to destabilize Africa’s most populous country and the entire Lake Chad region, including Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Visit www.SavethePersecutedChristians.org and click on the “Special Envoy for Nigeria” tab.
For young women like Leah, Save the Persecuted Christians seeks to bring awareness about Christians in Nigeria who are targeted for genocide through the “The People of the Cross” exhibit, a series of vertical traveling banners that details Christian persecution in various countries around the world. The exhibit’s panel on Nigeria reports the shocking fact that 6,000 Christians, mostly women, children and the elderly, were murdered in the first half of 2018 alone.
“Human rights groups describe Muslim Fulani and Boko Haram jihadi attacks as ‘war by Islam to eliminate Christianity,’” the Nigeria panel reads. “Unhindered by Nigeria’s leaders, who are Islamists, these attacks threaten to cleanse Nigeria of Christians.”
Banners also feature images, facts and quotes from recent news stories about the persecution of Christians in multiple countries, such as North Korea, where Christians are tortured or worse; Syria, where Christian girls and women have been sold into sex slavery; East Africa, where terrorists are exterminating Christians with genocidal intent; and China, where Communists are increasingly hostile to people of faith and churches are demolished. A majority of the countries highlighted in the banners are high on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List.
“The People of the Cross” exhibit premiered in July 2018 at the U.S. Capitol as a side event to the first-ever U.S. Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Since then, it has toured the United States, reaching tens of thousands. “The People of the Cross” exhibit is available for churches, public venues and special events. To learn more about hosting “The People of the Cross,” contact Save the Persecuted Christians or visit the website, where all the panels are available to view online.
The mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and save souls by holding the persecutors accountable and creating costs for their crimes against humanity. To that end, it will disseminate actionable information about the magnitude of such crimes and bring to bear a movement of concerned Americans determined to hold persecutors accountable for such crimes and create real costs for perpetrating them against those who follow Jesus.
According to Aid to the Church in Need, which released its biannual report on Religious Freedom in the World in November, over 300 million Christians experience persecution. According to Open Doors, 245 million Christians are victims of high to extreme levels of persecution (i.e., torture, rape, sex-slavery, expulsion, murder and genocide), an increase of 14 percent over 2018. Open Doors also estimates 1 in 9 of the world’s Christians experience persecution and that every month: 345 Christians are killed, often in public and without regard to gender or age; 219 Christians are abducted and imprisoned indefinitely without trial; and 106 churches are demolished.
Because most of these crimes are not covered in the media, Save the Persecuted Christians developed a dedicated news aggregator—www.ChristianPersecutionNews.com—to capture current instances of persecution and to provide readers an easy way to share these heartbreaking stories with others.
With so much of the world’s Christian population being attacked, imprisoned and/or exiled for their beliefs, such as those like Leah, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians endeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.