CSW marked the 18th birthday of Nigerian Christian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu with a global prayer event on 14 May. It featured the release of an exclusive gospel song, Heroes of Faith, recalling Leah’s courageous refusal to recant her faith in exchange for her freedom after being kidnapped by an off-shoot of the Boko Haram terrorist group in 2018.
The virtual meeting was one of a series of five events hosted by CSW teams in Mexico, Nigeria, Southeast Asia and the US and featured contributions from Leah’s mother Rebecca Sharibu; Gospel singer Panam Percy Paul, who wrote Heroes of Faith for Leah; Lord David Alton and the UK’s Special Envoy for freedom of religion or belief, Fiona Bruce MP.
Speaking in a pre-recorded video message, Rebecca Sharibu said: “We are truly encouraged that, on her own, she was able to take such a decision and stand by it. She refused to convert. If I could see her, I will tell her how I praise her decision and also let her know that we are still praying for her and, some day, she will be back home.” While she thanked all those who continue to pray and advocate for her daughter, Mrs Sharibu added that she had “nothing to say about the [Nigerian] government because, since this girl was taken, we have been promised repeatedly and until this moment she is not back. We are not happy because they have failed us.”
Leah Sharibu was the sole Christian among 110 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram from their school in Dapchi, Yobe state on 19 February 2018. While her surviving classmates returned a month later following government negotiations, she was denied her freedom for refusing to convert as a precondition for release. The terrorist group declared Ms Sharibu “a slave for life” and she has been in captivity ever since.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “It is terrible that once again we are marking Leah Sharibu’s birthday while she remains the captive of dangerous terrorists who are yet to be defeated, disarmed, and prosecuted for their crimes. We continue to draw inspiration from Leah’s incredible faith and bravery in the face of such intense adversity. The Nigerian government must fulfil its constitutional obligation to ensure every citizen is “protected irrespective of his/her gender, culture and religious belief.” We therefore reiterate our call to the Nigerian authorities to do everything in their power to secure Ms Sharibu’s immediate release, along with those of Alice Ngaddah, Grace Taku, the remaining Chibok Girls and every other citizen held captive by armed non-state actors.”