Nigeria: One Year Later, Christian Schoolgirl Captured by Boko Haram Held for Refusing to Convert

Released Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped from their school in Dapchi, in the northeastern state of Yobe, wait to meet the Nigerian president at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on March 23, 2018. The Nigerian president promised on March 23, 2018 to free the remaining Christian schoolgirl still held …
PHILIP OJISUA/AFP/Getty Images
EDWIN MORA

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, marked one year of holding 15-year-old Nigerian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu hostage after her abduction, refusing to free her because she would not renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.

On February 19 of last year, the jihadis kidnapped 110 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria’s Dapchi region, including Sharibu, the only one who remains in the hands of the jihadis.

Rebecca Sharibu, the captive’s mother, continues to pray for her daughter’s return.

Mrs. Sharibu told the Daily Trust this week, “I am praying for God to speak to the abductors’ hearts to release my daughter, she is the only thing I have.”

She urged Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is actively seeking re-election, to keep his promise and ensure her daughter’s safe return.

According to the Nigerian daily This Day, President Buhari told Mrs. Sharibu last October, “I convey my emotion, the strong commitment of my administration and the solidarity of all Nigerians to you and your family as we will do our best to bring your daughter home in peace and safety.”

Last week, the schoolgirl’s mother reportedly proclaimed:

The president spoke with me on phone and encouraged me not to worry, and with the assurance that my daughter will be released. Three ministers also visited me and gave me assurance but till today, I haven’t heard anything. Leah is just 15 years old. The beauty of a promise is in its fulfillment. Please save my daughter.

Consistent with the position of the Nigerian government, Mrs. Sharibu refuted social media rumors suggesting the ISIS-linked jihadis have already killed her daughter.

In October 2018, ISWAP declared that it would hold Sharibu and another Christian captive — a mother-of-two United Nations worker Alice Ngaddah, as “slaves for life,” Open Doors, a group that monitors the mistreatment of Christians, reported.

“From today, Sharibu and Ngaddah are now our slaves. Based on our doctrines, it is now lawful for us to do whatever we want to do with them,” the terrorists proclaimed.

Echoing the girl’s mother, Nathan Sharibu, the father, told USA Today in March 2018:

My daughter is alive, but they wouldn’t release her because she is a Christian. They told her they would release her if she converted, but she said she will never become a Muslim. I am very sad, but I am also overjoyed because my daughter did not denounce Christ.

Kachalla Bukar from the Dapchi Abducted Girls Parents Association also expressed dismay that Leah remains in captivity a year after her abduction, telling Daily Trust that the group would recite a prayer for her safety and release on Tuesday:

In order to commemorate the abduction and release of our daughters, we have organized a fasting and prayer today Monday and will hold rally tomorrow Tuesday to commemorate the incident

This fasting and prayer will be observed by both Muslims and Christians in the community and will hold prayers at Mr. Nathaniel Sharibu’s house to urge federal government to negotiate for the immediate release of Leah who is still in captivity.

On Tuesday, Christian protestors gathered outside the Nigeria High Commission in London to demand that ‘courageous’ girl Sharibu is set free.

Although the majority of the Nigerian population is Muslim, nearly half is Christian.

Open Doors listed Nigeria as one of the top 15 worst countries for Christian persecution.

Although core Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria accepted Boko Haram’s loyalty pledge in 2015, ISWAP broke away from the Nigeria-based terrorist group in 2016 over leadership differences, prompting the U.S. government to designate the group as a separate terrorist organization.

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