For more than 1,500 days, Nigerian Christian teenager Leah Sharibu has been held captive by the terrorist group Boko Haram as Christians continue to come under attack in the West African country.
Gloria Puldu-Samdi, who was with Sharibu’s family in early May, told the Christian Post in a recent phone interview that despite little tangible hope, they are continuing the search for their daughter, who turned 19 on May 14. marking its fifth anniversary. in captivity.
Late March marked 1,500 days of Shariby’s captivity. Reports say she is unlikely to be able to escape as she was ordered to stay close to Boko Haram commanders. For this reason, it was claimed that even a military rescue mission would fail.
Abducted at the age of 15, along with around 110 other girls from a school in Dapchi in February 2018, Sharibu has now reportedly given birth to two children fathered by Boko Haram militants.
Puldu-Samdi, who leads the LEAH Foundation in honor of the Nigerian teenager whose example of courageous faith has inspired many around the world, continues to advocate for her release. It has been widely reported that Sharibu refused to deny Jesus Christ and refused to embrace Islam. This is apparently why she remains in captivity.
“The purpose of creating her is that we can advocate for her, and for other women and girls who are persecuted for their faith and deprived of an education, who must pay a high price because of who they have chosen to be. being or who God has made them into women,” Puldu-Samdi said. “It’s painful to see my people deprived of education, to see my people deprived of the right to religious freedom, to see my communities destroyed .”
Puldu-Samdi has many sisters and her father, who is both Christian and educated, saw the value in girls who receive an education. For her, Sharibu is emblematic of every woman and girl who has been persecuted. Her ordeal and bravery in refusing to renounce Christ in the face of her terrorist captors is recounted in a book Puldu-Samdi co-authored with Peter Fretheim, titled Leah Hero For Jesus: The True Story of Leah Sharibu.
“Her parents continue to call for prayer…may the Lord keep her faith, her faith that is in her heart, may his presence be with her,” Puldu-Samdi said. “That even if she is forced to wear all the [hijab andabaya] things to show that they forced her to change, that her heart would be hidden and that her heart would be strong and stand firm, that she would always have the presence of the Lord. And pray for the release of this young child, that she may gain her freedom and that her parents will be strengthened.
Nigeria is increasingly in political peril and attacks on Christian communities by terrorist groups and radical Fulani herders continue to escalate year on year, Puldu-Samdi added. She lamented the lack of attention the rising violence is receiving around the world.
“On a day-to-day basis, it’s sad,” Puldu-Samdi said of the situation in Nigeria.
“And I am saddened by what is happening in the situation in Ukraine and elsewhere, but we can see and hear the support Ukraine is receiving. But why is the Nigerian Church being destroyed and the governments of the world not holding the Nigerian government accountable? Why is every international body, the United Nations, silent on what is happening in Nigeria? Why didn’t they investigate?
Under the Trump administration in 2020, Nigeria was placed on the US State Department’s list of countries of particular concern. The CPC designation is given to countries that allow serious violations of religious freedom under international religious freedom law.
The Biden administration lifted Nigeria’s CDC designation in 2021, drawing criticism from Christian human rights advocates and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Puldu-Samdi pleaded for Nigeria to be put back on the CCP’s list, especially as the persecution of Christians intensifies.
She pointed to reports of Christian student Deborah Samuel who was brutally murdered by stoning and beating in Sokoto State, Northern Nigeria. Her Muslim classmates had accused her of blaspheming the Islamic prophet Muhammad. While video footage of the horrific murder circulated online in mid-May as if it had just happened, a Reuters fact check has since claimed the footage is from August 2021.
Events like these are becoming more frequent in villages across the region and are intensifying, Puldu-Samdi added, lamenting that the world has largely ignored the plight of Christians in Nigeria.
As Nigeria gears up for a presidential election in 2023, Puldu-Samdi said she and others fear the country could implode. And some believe, according to national intelligence reports, that war in the country is imminent.
Open Doors USA, a watchdog organization that monitors persecution in more than 60 countries, ranks Nigeria as the seventh worst country in the world for Christian persecution. Open Doors reports that Christians in northern Nigeria live under threat from radical Islamic groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province, Fulani militants and other criminals who kidnap and murder Christians were “few consequences”.
Christians in some northern states live under Sharia law and are treated as “second-class citizens”, Open Doors reports in a fact sheet.