A young Christian woman, captured by extremist militants more than three years ago aged 14, is still alive, according to a Nigerian pastor who is working tirelessly to secure her release.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Reverend Gideon Para-Mallam said reliable sources were keeping him informed of Leah Sharibu’s situation.
The Evangelical pastor said: “Leah is being unjustly held by Boko Haram, but the good news is that she is still alive. One of the captives got to see her recently and I also received news last week, from diplomatic circles, that Leah is alive.
“Apart from this, I am also in touch with another source who is familiar with this issue, and it also confirmed that she is alive.
“It is very sad that, as Nigeria celebrated her 61st independence anniversary on the 1st October 2021, Leah Sharibu is still in captivity with many other innocent Nigerians, both Muslims and Christians.”
Leah Sharibu was kidnapped from her school in Dapchi, Yobe State on 19th February 2018 and wasn’t released with the rest of the captives as she was a Christian and refused to convert to Islam.
Despite the recent death of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, Reverend Para-Mallam said the prognosis for Leah is still very troubling.
He said: “[I]n some cases in which Christians are forced to convert to Islam under Boko Haram’s threat, the women are kept as sex slaves while the able-bodied men are conscripted into their army, indoctrinated, trained, and sent to fight for the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate.”
The pastor said that Alice Ngaddah, a young Christian nurse working for UNICEF and mother of two, was also still alive after she was abducted nine days after Leah on 1st March 2018.
He said: “As of today [7th October], Leah has spent 1,327 days in captivity while Alice Ngaddah has spent 1,317 days in captivity.”
Reverend Para-Mallam said that Christians in Nigeria are facing an ongoing disaster as Islamist groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) persecute them, as well as Islamised Fulani herders.
The reverend said: “The situation for Christians in Nigeria could be described as ‘deadly and horrible times.’ Christians in Nigeria have never had it so bad. The killings are real.
“The effect of the persecution is palpably severe in some parts of the country, especially the North-East, West, and Middle Belt.
“Let me be clear, the deadly insurgency in Nigeria has also led to many Muslims being killed by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, and bandits. However, the fact that Muslims are also victims does not hide the fact that Christians are being persecuted today in Nigeria.”