The Nigerian government is claiming Leah Sharibu, the 16-year-old Christian girl who remains a captive of the terrorist group Boko Haram, is still alive.
A handful of reports over the weekend indicated earlier claims that Sharibu, captured by Boko Haram in February 2018, had been killed while in captivity are false. The Nigerian government successfully negotiated the release of the other Dapchi schoolgirls captured alongside Sharibu, but they were unable to convince Boko Haram militants to let go of the 16-year-old teenager because she refused to renounce her Christian faith and recite an Islamic creed.
Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, told Morning Star News the government is confident Sharibu is alive and said Buhari’s administration “is carrying forward processes that should hopefully yield her release by her captors.”
Boko Haram has declared Sharibu a “slave for life.” While the government is continuing its negotiations to secure Sharibu’s release, Shehu said Nigerian authorities have no intentions of paying a ransom to Boko Haram.
“Kidnapping for ransom should never be encouraged,” he explained. “This means not capitulating to the demands of terrorists; refrain from rewarding their heinous crimes with payment.”
In late July, three Nigerian women — including Sharibu’s mother, Rebecca — traveled to Washington, D.C., where they begged the U.S. government to intervene and help rescue Sharibu.
“I need my daughter back,” Rebecca said. “I need my daughter.”
The Rev. Stephen Baba Panya, president of the Evangelical Church Winning All, told Morning Star News he does not trust the Nigerian government to successfully negotiate Sharibu’s release.
Sharibu and her family are part of the ECWA.
“We no longer rely on the Nigerian government’s assurances, which often amount to nothing,” he said. “Instead, as the Scriptures say, the just shall live by faith concerning Leah and many other national issues.”
“We are praying and trusting God to bring back Leah Sharibu, Alice Loksha, Sister Grace, and the remaining Chibok girls back to us safely in Jesus’ name,” he continued. “If God decides to still use the Nigerian government or security agents for that, to God be the glory.”
Nigeria is a dangerous place for Christians. In 2018 alone, some 3,731 believers were murdered and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo recently warned his successor there is a serious risk for a “Rwandan-style genocide” of Christians if the government doesn’t step in to stop the violence.
Despite overseeing a country in which roughly 10 Christians are killed every single day, Buhari has remained largely silent on the issue of religious persecution.
Please continue to pray for Sharibu, her family, and all those facing intense persecution for their religious beliefs.