As the world continues to contend with the coronavirus, there are many Christians for whom COVID-19 is just one more threat amongst many others they have faced for years, and for whom threats to their lives and livelihoods are likely to continue long after the pandemic has passed.

Earlier this year, Rebecca Sharibu delivered a petition, signed by more than 12,000 people, to the Nigerian High Commission in London, which called on the Nigerian Government to take action to free her daughter, Leah, from the terrorist group that is holding her captive. 

Leah was one of 110 girls abducted by terrorists from their school in Dapchi, north-east Nigeria, on 19 February 2018. Following negotiations with the Government, the terrorists, known as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an offshoot of the notorious Boko Haram, put the surviving girls into vehicles and returned them to their families after one month. However, Leah was not among them. 

At just 14 years old, Leah, the sole Christian in the group, was told that she would only be returned to her family if she renounced her faith and converted to Islam. She refused. She has remained an ISWAP captive ever since, enduring unimaginable hardship. In October 2018 the terrorists declared that she would be their slave for life, along with a fellow Christian hostage, nurse Alice Ngaddah. 

Protests organised by CSW have taken place repeatedly since Leah was forcibly taken, marking a series of sad anniversaries: the date of her abduction, her birthday, and certain milestones that serve as reminders of how many days she has spent apart from her family. We last wrote about Leah’s case for this blog prior to the first anniversary of her abduction.

It was with heavy but determined hearts that we gathered again to mark the second anniversary of Leah’s abduction and draw attention to her plight. Mrs Sharibu urged those who attended to continue praying until Leah is freed, and said that she was pleading with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to fulfil his promises that he has made to me personally, that he is going to rescue Leah and ensure that she is released, and not just Leah, all the others in captivity”.

Faith and perseverance

Whether it’s the apostle James’s exhortation to let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NIV), or the writer of Hebrews encouraging us to run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1), it is clear that time and time again as Christians we are called to persevere in our faith, no matter the circumstances. 

14 May marks Leah’s 17th birthday, and her third as an ISWAP captive. For over two years she has remained steadfast in her faith, refusing to give in to the terrorist’s demands and instead bravely staying true to her beliefs and to the God who promises to be with everyone who is called by His name (Isaiah 43:1 – 7).

Leah is still alive

In July 2019, reports circulated that both Leah and Alice had been killed, but this was swiftly discounted.

In January 2020, ISWAP released five aid workers it had abducted one month previously. One of them subsequently informed Nigerian media that she had visited Alice in a structure that served as her house’ in a forest, who informed her that Leah is alive and well, and is currently being held in an undisclosed location.

It is with the knowledge that Leah is still alive that CSW and many others continue to pray, campaign and advocate for her release, in the firm belief that God sees Leah’s faith and will deliver her from her captors.

Keep praying for Leah

Rebecca Sharibu, her husband Nathan, and their son Donald have not stopped praying in faith that Leah will come home to them, and neither should we. 

While the current COVID-19 crisis means it is not possible to gather outside the Nigerian High Commission on Leah’s birthday, we can still continue to draw on her inspirational example and persevere in prayer for her release.

You can join us for an online prayer meeting to mark Leah’s birthday, in which we will be praying these powerful words from Psalm 142:7 over Leah, Alice and all those in captivity in northern and central Nigeria: Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”

We believe in a living God who rewards His good and faithful servants (Matthew 25:23), and we therefore look forward to the day that Leah is released and free to inspire, encourage and challenge Christians around the world with her powerful story of perseverance. 

Image: Rebecca Sharibu, Leah’s mother © CSW

14 May marks Leah’s 17th birthday, and her third as an ISWAP captive. For over two years she has remained steadfast in her faith, refusing to give in to the terrorist’s demands.