One year ago today Nigerian Christian girl Leah Sharibu was taken captive by one of the most violent extremist groups in the world.
Sharibu and her classmates were kidnapped from their school in Dapchi (northern Nigeria) on February 19, 2018. All of her classmates were released, but Sharibu was kept in captivity after refusing to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.
Since then the group has executed four other captives and threatened to execute Sharibu. However, they have since said she will "live as a slave."
According to the Nigerian newspaper The Guardian, Sharibu's family continues to plead for her daughter's life.
“I am the mother of Leah and I am here begging the government not to forget my daughter," she said last week at a press conference. "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."
A representative for the family, Dr. Gloria Puldu, also called for people to pray for Sharibu and the other captives.
Advocacy groups for persecuted Christians also continue to raise awareness of Sharibu and calling Christians to prayer and action.
“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?
Laugesen says that Christians in the west “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.”
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.