RELEASE – Save the Persecuted Christians Hosts Rebecca Sharibu, Mom of Leah, a Kidnapped Schoolgirl, in D.C. This Week

***NEWS RELEASE*** | June 18, 2019

Mother of Boko Haram Captive Pleads with U.S. Government to Help Free Her 16-Year-Old Daughter; Millions of Nigerian Children Like Leah Are Terrified to Attend School

WASHINGTON—This week, Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC), which advocates on behalf of hundreds of millions of persecuted Christians worldwide, along with the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), are hosting Rebecca Sharibu, whose daughter, Leah, was taken captive in 2018 by the Islamic State West Africa Province, a Boko Haram splinter group, and held as a “slave for life” for refusing to renounce Christianity.

Sharibu joins other members of a Nigerian delegation who are in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about Christian persecution and give voice to Nigerian victims who are describing the horrors they have suffered.

TODAY: FOX NEWS covers Sharibu’s visit and the plea for Leah’s release. Read here.

This suffering is disproportionately experienced by Nigeria’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. For example, Save the Persecuted Christians Executive Director Dede Laugesen points to a new UNICEF report that found that 10 states across Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory have 8 million children who are out of school—an average enrollment of just 57%.

“This report further imparts the importance of our Nigerian guests’ plea for help,” Laugesen said. “Nigeria is the fastest-growing country on the African continent and is set to overtake the United States in population by 2050. The northern states have the most growth but, out of fear for their lives, children are not going to school. Those with firsthand accounts say the crisis in Nigeria has left ‘schools destroyed, teachers unavailable and parents terrified.’ Girls especially are at risk for kidnapping—even while at school.”

Laugesen has interacted extensively during the Nigerian visit with Sharibu, as well as Alheri Bawa MagajiandMercy Maisamari, daughters of the Adara Chiefdom of Kaduna State, who experienced weeks of Fulani militia violence earlier this year and whose leaders were falsely arrested and held without charge until May 31. These women, Laugesen said, believe all Nigerian girls should be able to go to school without fear of harm or horror. 

Rebecca Sharibu’s translator, Dr. Gloria Puldu, is also president of the Leah Foundation, which actively works to ensure girls like Leah can go to school safely.

Leah was kidnapped Feb. 19, 2018, along with 109 other girls. Five girls died during the first month. In March 2018, all the girls remaining in captivity were released—except Leah, who refused to deny Christ and convert to Islam. Last August, Boko Haram released a video of Leah as she pled for her release. A few months later, after threatening to execute her, Boko Haram instead announced plans to keep Leah as a “slave for life.”

“Nigerians and the international community are calling for the Nigerian federal government to do more to secure Leah’s release,” Laugesen added.

Last week, Rebecca Sharibu joined others from her country for a special event at The Heritage Foundation with the title of “Insecurity in Nigeria: The Victims Speak.” During the panel discussion, the featured speakers shared their firsthand experiences of persecution for their faith. Sharibu was also featured on EWTN Nightly News to talk about how the U.S. can help free her daughter. Watch here.

Additional Nigerian guests to the U.S. included Napoleon Adamu, victim of Fulani militia violence from Benue State, and Professor Dr. Richard Ikiebe, a senior fellow at the Center for Excellence in Journalism at the Pan-Atlantic University of Lagos.

The mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and save souls by disseminating actionable information about the magnitude of the persecution taking place globally and by mobilizing concerned Americans for the purpose of disincentivizing further attacks on those who follow Jesus.

According to Aid to the Church in Need, which released its biannual report on Religious Freedom in the World in November, over 300 million Christians experience persecution. According to Open Doors USA World Watch List, 245 million Christians are victims of high to extreme levels of persecution (i.e., torture, rape, sex-slavery, expulsion, murder and genocide), an increase of 14 percent over 2018. Open Doors also estimates 1 in 9 of the world’s Christians experience persecution and that every month: 345 Christians are killed, often in public and without regard to gender or age; 219 Christians are abducted and imprisoned indefinitely without trial; and 106 churches are demolished.

Since most of these crimes are not covered in the media, Save the Persecuted Christians has developed a dedicated news aggregator——to capture current instances of persecution and to provide readers with an easy way to share these heartbreaking stories with others.

With so much of the world’s Christian population being attacked, imprisoned and/or exiled for their beliefs, such as Christians schoolgirls in Nigeria, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians endeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.


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