The mother of 15-year-old Leah Sharibu, the Christian schoolgirl held by terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria, has begged believers to continue praying for her daughter.
“I know that all over the world believers are praying and advocating for the release of my daughter, but until now I haven’t seen my Leah,” said the mother, Rebekah Sharibu.
“I want to plead that Christians do not get tired of praying for her until she returns,” she said, according to Aid to the Church in Need.
The schoolgirl was kidnapped in February 2018 by Boko Haram in a raid on a girls’ boarding school in Dapchi city.
While 104 of the girls who were held captive have since been released, Sharibu is believed to be the only one of the Dapchi girls who's still being held against her will because she has refused to renounce Jesus Christ and adhere the militant’s version of Islam.
Nathan Sharibu, the girl’s father, said that her “trust and faith has made me realize that I have been living under the same roof with an admirable disciple of Christ.”
“I am highly encouraged by her strong faith in the Lord and her refusal to renounce Christ even before death at the hands of Boko Haram,” he added.
Boko Haram, which has kidnapped thousands of girls and women over the past several years, and in 2018 executed several humanitarian workers, has demanded $275 million for Sharibu's release.
Gloria Samdi Puldu, a friend of Sharibu's mother, told Punch newspaper in October that the family can only pray at the face of such a demand.
"I have been in contact with Leah Sharibu's parents and I spoke with them yesterday (Sunday). As I said, we have to pray because what else can be said about the demand for N100bn? Is there anything somebody can say about it? It's just prayers, and that is all we are doing," Puldu said at the time.
"We are praying for Leah, we are praying for the government, we are praying for Boko Haram and everybody. Let God intervene in this situation; that is all. I spoke with her parents, it is only prayers."
In a video released in October, Boko Haram warned that due to her refusal to convert to Islam, the schoolgirl might be forced to become a "slave for life."
"Based on our doctrines, it is now lawful for us to do whatever we want to do with them," the group said, also referring to UNICEF worker Alice Ngaddah, another captured Christian woman.
The Nigerian government has said it's making efforts to free Sharibu, but her family faced the new year still not knowing if or when they will see their daughter again.
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos meanwhile joined in the call for prayers.
“I invite all of you to pray for Leah and for all those who are captive for refusing to renounce the faith,” Kaigama urged believers.
“She chose to remain a Christian even in the face of the possibility of death,” he added. “Leah stands out for her courage in preserving her Christian faith and identity.”