With news outlets reporting that Nigerian Christian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu may have been killed by her Boko Haram captors, David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA has released a statement accusing the Nigerian government of lacking the will to protect religious minorities and hold violators to justice.
Fresh concerns about the safety of Sharibu and Alic Loksha, a UNICEF worker, have arisen following the circulation of a video, in which one of six recently-kidnapped Action Against Hunger aid workers appeals for help to the Christian Association of Nigeria, the government and the international community, lest they suffer the same fate as Leah and Alice who she says were killed.
The Presidency said yesterday that the disturbing video has created urgency for security agencies, especially the secret services in their efforts to ensure the release of those held by terrorist groups.
Curry says in a statement: “If this report proves true, the news that Leah Sharibu may have been killed by Boko Haram is a devastating blow to the Christian community in Northern Nigeria and a terrible disappointment to Christians around the world who have been praying for her. Her death, if confirmed, further illustrates that the Nigeria Government of president Bhuhari has abandoned international standards of human rights by failing to provide even the most rudimentary protections to religious minorities, and to make honest efforts to hold violators to justice.
“Despite years of promises, Boko Haram and Fulani Militants are killing Christians without resistance from the Nigerian government. Without the resources to protect, and the will of duly elected civil government to fight the terrorist agenda of these groups, Northern Nigeria and others surrounding areas in the region maybe lost to these ISIS-affiliated groups.
“We urge the Nigerian government to immediately launch an investigation to confirm this report and, if true, to take deliberate action to bring the perpetrators to justice. If it is discovered this report is in error, let us all take this story as reason to double down on our efforts to intervene and decisively move to protect Leah and others like her who have fallen into the clutches of Boko Haram.”
Sharibu was kidnapped by Boko Haram, along with 109 other female pupils in February 2018. The other pupils were subsequently released but Sharibu has remained in captivity for over a year for refusing to denounce her Christian faith.
In the video, which Action Against Hunger yesterday verified as authentic, one of the aid workers wearing a light blue hijab is seen pleading with CAN, the government and the world to assist in their release to avoid what happened to earlier aid workers including Alice and Leah Sharibu.
The woman, who identifies herself as Grace, says: “The Nigerian government should please do something to see that we are released because this has occurred before… some ladies were caught, Hauwa and Ziphora, they also asked to be released but because Nigeria did not do anything about it, they were killed. I am begging on behalf of all of us here that please Nigerians should not allow such to happen to us and it also happened again with Leah and Alice because Nigeria could not do anything about them. They were not released; they were also killed.”
Action Against Hunger has confirmed that its workers were abducted in Borno state by Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), another Islamist terror group operating in Nigeria.
Earlier this month Archbishop Ben Kwashi, the Archbishop of Jos in Plateau state and general secretary of GAFCON, said incidents of violence towards Christians by Islamic militants have been allowed to continue for too long and have become a common trend across the country: “It has become fashionable in some places to just kill Christians, and there’ll be no case.
He said: “In fact yesterday, some young men went back to their farms and some Fulani herdsmen attacked them and drove them away and killed them. Nobody would do anything. This the same place where many were killed. Their houses destroyed, church destroyed, schools destroyed, everything destroyed and no arrests, nothing.”
He went on to say that persecution is a growing concern in Nigeria for all marginalised groups, not just Christians — as many offenders are not being prosecuted by the authorities.
He said: “You would have thought that this was just a one off, but it’s almost like a national calamity, because even the Muslims in the northwest and some parts of the North East have been killed in the same way. It’s just unexplainable.
“I don’t know how our leaders sleep, believe me. I can’t imagine that they would be in power and they have the capacity to protect poor people, and they will not protect poor people. All the protection is on the rich people. I can’t understand it.”
Nigeria is Number 12 on Open Doors’ World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians. With a population of nearly 200 million, the country’s primary religions are Islam and Christianity. There are more than 91 million Christians in Nigeria. Increased attacks on Christians in the north and in the Middle Belt have claimed the lives of hundreds of believers, and scores of villages and churches have been burned to the ground.