Boko Haram’s Captive, Leah Sharibu, Turns 16 Today
Several Prayer Events Planned in Nigeria to #FreeLeahSharibu; Save the Persecuted Christians Encourages Americans to Also Speak Up for Leah
WASHINGTON—Leah Sharibu’s 16th birthday will not be sweet.
The Nigerian Christian girl was captured by Boko Haram on Feb. 19, 2018, along with 109 of her female classmates. Five girls died in captivity while 104 were released about a month later. But Leah was kept because she refused to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ and convert to Islam, as demanded by her captors.
Today, Leah is turning 16 years old—on her 454th day in captivity—and Christians around the world must speak up to demand her release, says Save the Persecuted Christians, which advocates on behalf of hundreds of millions of Christians facing heavy persecution worldwide. For the past year, STPC has been working for Leah to be freed—and continues to do so.
“We urge American Christians to tell others—family, friends and prayer groups—about Leah by using #FreeLeahSharibu on social media,” said Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians. “Passionate public outcry has been instrumental in similar releases—and we believe it can make a difference for Leah, too.
“Besides the torment and isolation Leah must face, her family is traumatized as well,” said Laugesen. “We can only imagine her parents’ pain, as Leah is kept as a ‘slave for life’ by one of the world’s most violent terrorist groups.”
Several prayer events and peaceful gatherings are planned today in Leah’s home country of Nigeria to honor her testimony of faith and resilience, including in the cities of Abuja, Jos and Lagos. Partnering organizations include the Leah Sharibu Foundation, Christian Women for Excellence and Empowerment in Nigeria Society (CWEENS), Catalyst for Peace and Justice, and the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation.
Save the Persecuted Christians suggests small groups, Bible studies and families in America offer special prayer times for Leah and others in captivity. Christian women and girls are often doubly persecuted in many of the countries on this year’s World Watch List, on which Nigeria is No. 12.
Save the Persecuted Christians also calls on the Trump administration to appoint a U.S. Special Envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad region 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-Lake Chad” tab under “Initiatives.”
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. Nearly 1,000 have been killed by terrorists so far in 2019 and an estimated 4,000 people have been kidnapped and are held for ransom.
“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 mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and save souls by disseminating actionable information about the magnitude of the persecution taking place globally and by mobilizing concerned Americans for the purpose of disincentivizing further attacks on 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 USA World Watch List, 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.
Since most of these crimes are not covered in the media, Save the Persecuted Christians has developed a dedicated news aggregator—www.ChristianPersecutionNews.com—to capture current instances of persecution and to provide readers with 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, 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.