I want to introduce you to a special young woman. Right now, she is in the midst of an uncertain and unthinkable storm. Her name is Leah Sharibu and she is just 15 years old.
In February, the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram stormed Leah’s secondary school in the community of Dapchi, kidnapping Leah and 109 of her schoolmates. After a month in secret captivity, they were released…all but Leah.
Of the 110 girls who were kidnapped, Leah was the only Christian. According to one of her freed classmates, Leah was left behind with her captors because she refused to renounce Jesus as her Lord. She stood firm, even knowing that her decision for Christ would almost certainly mean physical death or even worse – years of torture as a slave to these men.
After nearly seven long months of excruciating silence, Boko Haram released an audio message of Leah. In the recording, young Leah makes a scripted plea to Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari and the government to treat her “with compassion” and get her “out of this situation.” The recording was accompanied by an image of her, dressed in a Muslim hijab, her face downcast. Her captivity had clearly taken a toll on her, but she was alive and we praised God for that.
In just three short weeks, however, the high of the hope of her safety and return was quickly replaced with tragic news: On September 16*, one of the women being held with Leah, a 25-year-old Red Cross worker, Saifura Khorsa, was executed as a “message of blood” from Boko Haram. They warn that if the government does not respond to their demands, Leah and the others will be executed as well…in one month. On October 15, they made true on their threat and executed another Red Cross worker, Hauwa Leman. In their video of Hauwa’s execution, they announced that Leah would remain as a “slave for life.”
President Buhari vows that no effort will be spared to locate the girls, yet we have neither seen nor heard of any progress. And Islamists continue to murder Nigerian Christians in record numbers with virtual impunity from Buhari’s administration.
We have been following Leah since her kidnapping in February. You can read our blogs about Leah here: Her Name is Leah, Leah 6 Months After Being Kidnapped, and Leah: 30 Days to Live – Urgent Prayer Request. Despite having never met, I’m starting to feel like I know her. But even as a father of two daughters, I still can’t even begin to fathom what she and her parents are going through. I am humbled by her resolve and perseverance. And I am sickened by her circumstances.
Leah’s resolve is remarkable, but friends, she is suffering… and her life as a slave to these evil men will test her in ways we can’t possibly understand.
We want the world to know that we love our brothers and sisters “just as” Jesus loved us. We need Leah and her family to feel our solidarity. And as 1 Corinthians 12:26 (ESV) reminds us: “If one member suffers, all suffer together…”
What can you do?
Please pray for Leah with your family, your fellow believers. Pray that Leah would be released unharmed and until then, that she and her loved ones would rest in God’s peace.
Please share Leah’s story with your friends and social networks with the hashtags #FreeLeah, #RememberLeah and #PrayforLeah and encourage them to pray for her as well.
She needs the body of Christ to support her now more than ever.
*estimated date based on Open Doors reports