Father to Buhari: Do what you did that led to the release of other Dapchi girls
Brother: Life is Empty Without Leah
‘Govt, Church Should Act Fast, Else’
For 45-year-old Nathan Sharibu it has been days and weeks of daily trauma and troubling nightmare. The Police Inspector’s daughter Leah Sharibu, 15-year-old has been in captivity in the den of death-dealing Boko Haram since February 19 when the sect’s militia invaded Government Girls Science and Technical School in Dapchi, Yobe State. The terrorists had taken 110 young schoolgirls, returned 105, accounted for four deaths, and held behind Leah because she resisted the sect’s efforts to convert her to Islam.
“I’m pleading for the government to do the right thing and help,” Nathan told Emmanuel Ogebe, a human rights lawyer, in a recent interview. “[I want government to help] as they did before by bringing the rest [of Dapchi girls] to their parents. [They should do the same] in the case of our daughter.”
The disappearance of Leah from the family for over 80 days now has left the family in distraught and devastation. Nathan appeals goes not only to government but also to Christians. He says in the interview: “I want Christians to continue praying for Leah. It is because of Christian faith that Leah [resisted the sect]. I want Christians, not to only pray for Leah, but also [to pray for] the family.”
For Donald, Leah’s younger sibling who is in SS! in another government secondary school in Yobe, the house has become empty without her sister. He says, “Truly I felt unhappy because we are the only children in the house and now I am the only one, so I am not happy. Those that are trying [to help secure Leah’s release], please let them continue. Donald told Ogebe that he would not return to school until her sister has returned from Boko Haram’s captivity. But he would not want Leah to deny Christ in exchange for her freedom. Donald puts it this way: “Leah should maintain her faith, as she has started, even to the point of death… I am pleased with what she did and because our parents brought us up with good [Christian] teachings. Our mother used to tell us about persecution [in] the Last Days.”
As the family and Christians pray for the release of Leah from captivity, many are unaware of the fact that the Boko Haram faction holding the young girl shows kindness to Muslims but deals brutally with Christians who are captured by their fighters and taken to their enclave.
‘ISIS in Iraq Said Only Muslim Girls Should be Released’
Leah, a student at Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State was one of 105 schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram faction Islamic States of West Africa (ISWA) on February 19 and released on March 21, 2018. However, reports said four of the schoolgirls died while in captivity while the sect refused to release Leah with the other 100 girls because ISWA’s efforts to convert the Christian girl to Islam failed, according to some of the girls released by ISWA.
Enquiries by WordAlive revealed that an instruction from the Islamic States in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leadership led to ISWA’s decision to release other Dapchi schoolgirls and to continued detention of Leah in captivity. In an audio tape leaked by the sect, ISWA’s spokesman revealed that after the abduction of the girls, ISIS leadership in Iraq told ISWA that it was wrong to abduct Muslim girls, so all those who professed Islam should be let go. But any of the girls who was not a Muslim should be converted to Islam or held captive because such is an infidel or an apostate and seen as second class citizens or less than a Muslim woman in status. Open Doors reported how ISIS treated such women thus: “Religious minority women under IS control are often repeatedly sold from jihadi to jihadi. Once militants get tired of raping and abusing one particular girl, they usually sell them off to one of their militant buddies so they can rape and abuse them at their own pleasure.”
The spokesman of ISWA, Abu Bashir, said, “we preached to them [Dapchi schoolgirls] to repent. They promised to embrace Islam. They even asked for a direction back home.” Bashir said ISWA took instructions from Caliph Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi on major decisions, and that ISIS in Iraq was actively involved in the release of Dapchi girls. The release of Muslim girls and detention of Leah because she is a Christian girl follows a pattern which 21-year-old leader of ISWA, Abu Musab al-Barnawi declared in his statement in August 2016. In it, he declared that their war was against Christians and infidels, and not against Muslims and heavily criticised factional leader Abubakar Shekau for killing Muslims, among them commanders of the sect. Al-Barnawi was quoted as saying the sect would be “booby-trapping and blowing up every church that we are able to reach, and killing all of those (Christians) who we find from the citizens of the cross.”
Leah Held in Lake Chad Area
The young lad is held by the Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram, which is now christened Islamic States of West Africa (ISWA) in the Lake Chad area. The region has since has since been abandoned and neglected by Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Left without any form of governance – no police or military presence – the over 3,000 Jihadist fights have a thoroughfare in the enclave where they exploit peasants who inhabit the communities.
A recent report by Reuters explained how ISWA runs the caliphate in the region. It said the sect wins the loyalty of the inhabitants by digging wells for them, provide seeds and fertilizer and help in securing their cattle. In this way, the sect and its army provides the necessary security and care that the people do not get from the authorities that should control the Lake Chad region.
Reuters said, “ISWA stretches farther and is more entrenched than officials have acknowledged, according to witnesses, people familiar with the insurgency, researchers and Western diplomats who have for the first time provided details of the group’s growing efforts to establish a form of administration in the Lake Chad area. A map produced by the U.S. development agency in February and seen by Reuters shows how ISWA territory extends more than 100 miles into the northeastern Nigerian states of Borno and Yobe, where government has in many areas all but vanished after a decade of conflict.”
The news agency added that, “They have checkpoints for stop and search, and if you are a regular visitor they know you,” including informers who alert them to military attacks. It added that “ISWA provides safe grazing for about 2,500 naira ($8) a cow and 1,500 naira ($5) for smaller animals. ISWA also runs slaughterhouses for the cattle, taking a cut for each animal, as well as from other activities like gathering firewood.”
Now, this breakaway faction of Boko Haram is the largest affiliate of the deadly Islamic States in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which is believed to provide ISWA with logistical support and funding necessary to entrench the sect’s caliphate in the Lake Chad and spread the Jihadist doctrine in the area. With its arms spread to all the wings of the Lake Chad region, it is clear why Leah’s attempts to escape from the ISWA’s den were neutralised by the loyalty of those who have come under the control of ISWA.
Prayer, Intercession, Everywhere
In the last 80 days since Leah was abducted, churches in Nigeria have intensified prayers for the courageous Christian girl. The Evangelical Churches Winning All (ECWA) in the North East, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Yobe State Branch, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and other Christian leaders in the country have either proclaimed a fast or have special prayer sessions for Leah. Pastor Adeboye had prayed thus: “Lord, we ask that You visit the camp of the captors and in a way that You alone can, see to the safe release and return of the missing girl, Leah Sharibu in Jesus name. Isaiah 49:25 says: ’But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.’”
In Kaduna, 1,000 choristers assembled at the St. Mathew Catholice Church, Angwar Television to sing praises to God and beseech Him to intervene in Leah’s situation. The choristers came together from various churches and denominations in Kaduna to attend the epoch-making event.
In his sermon, as reported by Swanskylinks (http://www.swansylinks.com/leah-1000-choristers-in-emotional-performance-as-fiery-priest-declares-her-a-living-martyr-by-luka-binniyat/), Rev. Fr. Williams Kaura Abba described Leah as a living martyr in contemporary Christianity. He was quoted as saying, “It is in the annals of the church that many of its adherents have willingly accepted martyrdom” and went on to cite the writing of St. Thomas of Aquinas. “Fortitude is the Hero’s virtue; the Martyrs virtue. It is the virtue that helps man to practice religion in the face of scorn, derision and persecution. It springs from the will. It is not about physical strength; hence we wouldn’t ascribe it to Leah Sharibu who is a teenage girl. The supreme act of fortitude is Martyrdom whereby a person suffers death in order to cling to truth and justice. By her refusal to denounce her faith and her God, even in the face of imminent and real threat of death, Leah Sharibu can be classically classified as a LIVING MARTYR. A French proverb captures this aptly: ‘You cannot answer for your courage if you have never been in danger.’ Thomas Aquinas teaches also that the main vice opposed to fortitude is fear. Confucius the Chinese Philosopher aptly captured this when he said ‘To see what is right and not do it is want of courage.”
The website quoted him as adding that: “She is the story of her generation. We want her alive and not a Martyr. We want her back in the embrace of her family, who gave her a great name and she has lived up to its billing. Leah of the Bible was not beautiful but her soul was. That is what we seek when she comes back. “We want her to live like the Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan who survived the furnace of her captors. We want to see her grow, show examples for her generation, show her human flaws and strength and become a living evolution of moral growth in a flawed society. Martyrs enrich societies but save us the true nature of their humanity. Mandela grew up to an old age, a symbol of strength, principle, character and self-control. So was Mother Theresa, whose serenity of vision and activities etched in us the possibility of human tenderness. That is why we want her here, to breathe on us the spirit in her soul.”
While Christians and Churches have taken to prayer and fasting for the release of Leah, the efforts of government is still shrouded in secrecy, as is the tradition in backhand deals with terrorist organisations. While in London in April, President Muhammadu Buhari told Justin Webly, the Archbishop of Canterbury that “We are managing the matter quietly. Making noise would not help. We are collecting as much intelligence as possible, working with the Red Cross and other international organisations. There are too many fraudulent people around who claim they can do this and that. We won’t deal with them. That was how we got the Dapchi girls back, and the Chibok girls.”
‘How to Get Leah out of ISWA’s Den’
A counter-terrorism expert who is vast in the knowledge of how terrorists operate around the world, Dr Amaechi Nwokolo said in order to secure the release of Leah from the deadly sect’s den, ‘government must be very open and do what it did to secure the release of Muslim Dapchi girls.” He argued that the notion that the Islamic fundamentalists target mainly Christians must be disproved by government’s resilience in its efforts to get Leah out of captivity. “Leah should not be abandoned to the terrorists simply because she’s a Christian.”
Nwokolo charges CAN to put pressure on government to act fast because of the dangers Leah is exposed to every minute that she is left at the mercy of the terrorists. “Is she still alive? How is she being treated? What is happening to her? The case of Chibok girls who were forced to convert to Islam, sexually abused, made pregnant by Boko Haram fighters and even the fear that some were forced to engage in suicide bombing calls for urgent steps to be taken to free Leah. If government is not enthusiastic about doing the right thing, Christians must put pressure on it to act fast.”
The counter-terrorism expert advised that government should get closer to the young girl’s parents and given them the psychological support that they need in this torturous moment in their life. “They no longer feel safe. They are traumatized. They need a psychological relief. The Yobe State government and its related agencies should ensure that they give them a sense of belonging and make them comfortable even as they wait patiently for the joyous moment when they would be reunited with their daughter. They are undergoing a kind of mental torture. Their mental health is at risk. We need to help Leah’s parents.”
Though the Nigerian authorities wave off the evidence-based argument of the religious colour of Boko Haram activities, the sect has been very brutal against Christians and Churches. In its early days in Maiduguri, the sect killed many Christians and destroyed many churches while government and security agencies looked away. The sect’s militia was never arrested for prosecution. In their violent protest against government since 2009, the sect targeted churches from the North-East to the North-Central part of Nigeria, for attacks and bloodshed. Also, the abduction of schoolgirls in Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State in 2014 was motivated by the fact that most of the schoolgirls were Christians. However, in spite of the copious evidence that Jihadists aim to exterminate Christianity in Nigeria, neither the leadership of the Body of Christ in Nigeria nor the government have put in place measures to protect Christians from the assault on the church by Boko Haram. Many churches are not fenced against diverse forms of attacks, the intelligence community has not intercepted or foiled plots against churches, and there are no records of a deliberate attempt by the police to deploy its men to provide security in Churches. Leah’s plight is, no doubt, a wake-up call to the Church in Nigeria.