JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Following disclosure of a video by Boko Haram Islamic extremists threatening to kill Christian high school student Leah Sharibu within one month, Christian leaders in Nigeria have declared three days of prayer and fasting.
In the video disclosed last week, the terrorists are shown killing an aid worker. In a comment to Morning Star News, the 15-year-old Leah’s father, Nathan Sharibu, pleaded with the terrorists to have mercy on his daughter, who was not released with more than 100 kidnapped high school girls earlier this year because she refused to convert to Islam.
“I plead that the leaders of the group have mercy on my daughter and spare her life,” Sharibu told Morning Star News by phone on Monday (Sept. 24). “I also want to plead with the Nigerian government to do all they can to secure the release of my daughter, Leah. She does not deserve to die in this cruel way.”
Leaders of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Sharibu’s church, directed all its congregations within and outside Nigeria to observe three days of fasting and prayers yesterday, today and tomorrow (Sept. 26).
Signed by the Rev. Yunusa Nmadu Jr., ECWA general secretary, the letter, entitled “URGENT PRAYER CONCERN,” calls for prayer and fasting for Leah’s release and that of other Boko Haram abductees. Two aid workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross,
Hauwa Mohammed Liman and Alice Loksha Ngaddah, remain hostage following the terrorists’ killing of Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa, 25, a mother of two who worked as midwife with the ICRC.
Dated Sept. 19, the letter calls on Christians across the world to join the church in praying for their release.
“We urge other churches worldwide to join us,” it reads. “Thank you for standing in the gap.”
The head of Nigeria’s Anglican Communion also voiced his concern. The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), said in a statement after the church’s synod met in Minna, north-central Nigeria, that the Nigerian government must undertake all means possible to secure the release of Leah and others.
“No sacrifice is too much to get these girls released,” Okoh said. “In the interest of democracy, freedom of religion and national cohesion, sufficient effort should be made to bring their ordeal and that of their parents and families to an end.”
The late Khorsa and the two other health workers were abducted on March 1 in a Boko Haram attack on Rann, on Nigeria’s far northeastern border.
In the Boko Haram video, made available to Nigerian online outlet The Cable, the insurgents assert they made contact with the government about the hostages but received no response.
“We contacted the government through writing and also sent audio messages, but the government have ignored us,” a spokesman of the group says. “So, here is a message of blood. The other nurse and midwife will be executed in similar manner in one month, including Leah Sharibu.”
The Nigerian government last week confirmed that the group sent the video to officials in which the terrorists threaten to kill Leah and the aid workers.
Garba Shehu, a media aide to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, said in a statement that the video showed the killing of Khorsa, kidnapped with the two other aid workers in Borno state.
“The government of Nigeria strongly condemns this reprehensible and inhuman act,” Buhari was quoted as saying in the statement. “No religion permits the killing of the innocent.”
He appealed to the United Nations and other international agencies to prevail on Boko Haram “to stop these acts of extreme barbarism” and said his government will make efforts to secure the release of Leah, the two Red Cross workers and all other Nigerian citizens held captive by Boko Haram.
She and the other girls were kidnapped on Feb. 19 from Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School, Dapchi, in northeast Nigeria’s Yobe state. All were released in March except Leah.
Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 1,000 children in Nigeria since 2013, according to CNN.
About 100 of 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok, in Borno state, in 2014 are still missing.
Boko Haram, whose name is loosely translated as, “Western education is a sin,” has fought for nine years to impose sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria, killing tens of thousands of people and displacing more than 2 million. Boko Haram militants reportedly warned parents of the returned Dapchi girls not to send their daughters back to school.
In 2015 the Nigerian military began taking back most of the territory Boko Haram had controlled, but many areas remain, and the terrorists are still mounting isolated attacks. Jubilee Campaign reports that, according to figures from the Stefanos Foundation, Boko Haram in 2017 took responsibility for attacks that claimed more than 650 lives.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.