The Nigerian government is now indicating that Christian teenager Leah Sharibu, who was captured by Boko Haram in February 2018, is alive and not dead.
Several Nigerian and global media outlets reported Saturday that the kidnapped Christian 16-year-old schoolgirl is indeed alive. Reports surfaced this summer that she had been killed in captivity.
Save the Persecuted Christians, which advocates on behalf persecuted Christians around the world, is noting that Nigerian contacts say the Nigerian government is dismissing speculation that she is dead and is continuing to negotiate for her release.
“Leah needs to come home,” said Dede Laugesen, executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians, in a press statement emailed to The Christian Post.
“We are delighted the Nigerian federal government has confirmed Leah lives!”
In July, reports had surfaced that the Boko Haram splinter group ISWAP — a group that has ties to Islamic State terrorists — released a disturbing three-minute video of six Christian aid workers begging for their lives after being kidnapped by the group in a raid earlier this month. ISWAP is the Islamic extremist group that also kidnapped Sharibu along with more than 100 other schoolgirls in the town of Dapchi on Feb. 19, 2018.
In the video, Grace Taku, an aid worker with Action Against Hunger, pleads for her life and references Sharibu and the kidnapped Christian aid worker and mother, Alice Ngaddah.
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, which has worked closely with Sharibu’s family since her abduction, cautioned against buying into reports of her death. But it urged Nigeria’s government to immediately launch an investigation into the reports.
Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity, said on Saturday that the government's efforts would continue in hopes of Sharibu's release.
Earlier this summer, Sharibu's mother, Rebecca, visited the United States and pleaded with government officials to help free her daughter.
Laugesen said of the plea, “STPC and our coalition of NGO and faith leaders insist they keep their word and move quickly to secure her release.”
“The Nigerian government is eager to placate Vice President Mike Pence, USAID Admin. Mark Green and others in the U.S. administration pressing for her release after Rebecca Sharibu’s visit to Washington, D.C. in June where, with our coalition’s assistance, she made many tearful pleas for help for her daughter. This cannot be another photo-op backed up by empty promises.”
Sharibu was kidnapped last February along with 109 other girls. Five of those girls died while in captivity. The government negotiated the release of all the others except for Leah, who is a Christian and refused to convert to Islam.
“Women and girls are going through hell. Please pressure our government,” said Gloria Puldu, who was Rebecca Sharibu's translator when she spoke in Washington, D.C., at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, in June.
"Help us. We are out here. [Rebecca] is crying, just wanting her daughter to be set free.”
Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to the Open Doors 2019 World Watch List.
As CP reported previously, in October 2018, Sharibu held a press conference calling on the Nigerian government to do their best to ensure that Leah is released. The press conference was held because there had not been any government official that visited the parents to tell them the information they had on their daughter’s kidnapping.
Reports at the time suggested that the militants were demanding a ransom of approximately $275 million to release Sharibu.
Another press conference was held in February, where they demanded answers again but received no response.
Save the Persecuted Christians is an educational charity and a grassroots movement that educates the public on anti-Christian violence, seeks to support those harmed for their faith in Jesus, holds those responsible accountable, and secures significant penalties on state and non-state persecutors of Christians, their website states.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, currently a commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, is Shairbu's advocate within that government entity.