Three years ago, 110 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted by terrorists from Boko Haram. After a month of negotiations with government authorities, 109 were returned to their families. The girl who was not returned was also the only Christian, 14-year-old Leah Sharibu.
According to Boko Haram (or, as it calls itself, the Islamic State West African Province), Sharibu refused to convert to Islam, their precondition for her release. A few months later, Boko Haram announced that Sharibu and Alice Loksha Ngaddah, a Christian nurse kidnapped in March 2018, would be enslaved for life.
The last time the world heard from Leah, she begged to be “treated with compassion” and asked “the government, particularly the president, to pity me and get me out of this serious situation.” Three years later, Leah remains a prisoner, a “captive for Christ.”
Leah’s case is only one example of the kind of violence and oppression Nigerian Christians face every day, especially in the country’s mostly Muslim north. For years, Boko Haram and Muslim Fulani militants have killed, raped, kidnapped, and sought to “cleanse” parts of northern Nigeria of its Christian population. The extent of violence has been vividly brought to life in an interactive calendar published by the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), which tracks how many Nigerian Christians were killed, violated, injured, or abducted on any given day since Christmas of 2019. The scale is stunning.
The extent of what’s been dubbed the “Silent Slaughter” of Nigerian Christians has prompted observers both inside and outside of the country to call it “genocide.” However, because the response of the Nigerian government ranges from indifference to possible complicity, the best chance for relief rests on the efforts of Christians and other concerned people to organize, agitate, and, most of all, pray.
Last year, ICON hosted a virtual summit to bring awareness to the crisis there. I was privileged to join former NFL star Benjamin Watson, former U.S. Representative Frank Wolf, and then-Representative Tulsi Gabbard on a panel for that event. In addition to the tremendous work of ICON, there is also the aptly named LEAH Foundation.
Named for the young girl still held by Boko Haram, “LEAH” is an acronym that stands for “Leadership,” “Empowerment,” “Advocacy,” and “Humanitarian.” This advocacy for girls like Leah and others who have been attacked and/or kidnapped by groups like Boko Haram is incredibly important. As Open Door’s most recent report highlighted, sexual violence, including abduction, is the chief threat faced by Christian women around the world. The LEAH Foundation is also working to establish places where girls like Leah can, when released, find a home, provisions, and an education. But first, Leah must be freed.
To mark the upcoming third anniversary of her abduction, the LEAH Foundation is launching a seven-day campaign to draw international attention to her story, and to the plight of Nigerian Christians. The campaign will run from February 13th to 19th and is built around prayer and a livestream event. Each day’s prayers will focus on specific issues. For instance, on the 13th, the prayers will be centered on Leah’s family. The following day, we will pray for her to be encouraged. Other days, we will pray that world leaders will act, for the defeat of terrorism in Nigeria, and, of course, for other girls in captivity. The campaign will culminate on February 19th with a three-hour streaming event on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Or, if you come to BreakPoint.org, we’ll link you to it.
“Three years is too long.” The indifference of much of the world to the abduction and enslavement of Leah and to the ongoing violence in Nigeria must stop. Come to BreakPoint.org, and I will link you to the LEAH Foundation’s 7 Days of Prayer.
Image sourced from Open Doors
LEAH Foundation | 2021
ICON | December 14, 2018
David Goatley | LEAH Foundation | 2021
Silent Slaughter Nigeria | 2021
ICON | Facebook | September 16, 2020
Open Doors | 2021
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