The horror that enveloped Rebecca Sharibu’s world in early 2018 when her 14-year-old daughter, Leah, was kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria felt like it might suddenly end when news broke, after just a few weeks of back-channel efforts, that the more than 100 girls taken in the raid were being released.
But then it became clear that one girl, Leah, was being held back by the jihadis because she refused to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ. For Mrs. Sharibu, the nightmare would only get worse.
Five months after the others were set free, a grainy video emerged of a sad, frightened-looking girl wearing a light brown Islamic head covering, a hijab. It was Leah, and she was pleading for Nigeria’s government to respond to the demands of the jihadi terrorist group Boko Haram, which has aligned itself with the Islamic State.
“I just started crying,” Mrs. Sharibu said in a recent interview with The Washington Times. “That was the only time I saw her and heard from her. … I don’t know what is happening to her.”
The mother’s anguish continues to this day. Mrs. Sharibu and a delegation of other Nigerian Christians sought to highlight that anguish on a recent visit to Washington, where they met with U.S. lawmakers and staffers of Vice President Mike Pence.
The group was hosted by Save the Persecuted Christians, a charity focused on anti-Christian violence around the world and by the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), a nongovernmental aid and advocacy organization focused on Nigeria.
ICON co-founder Stephen Enada said the U.S. should be giving a stronger response to a security crisis in Nigeria that began nearly a decade ago with the rise of Boko Haram and has evolved into a landscape of chaos in the northern part of the country, where minority Christian communities are targeted.
Complicating the crisis are expanding clashes between ethnic Fulani cattle herders, who are mainly Muslim, and Christian farmers spread across Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northern states.
Nigeria ranks 12th on Christian support organization Open Doors 2019 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Throw in widespread government corruption, and the result has been an epidemic of violence and religious kidnappings. Christian groups say Boko Haram has emboldened Muslim Fulani herdsman to carry out attacks.
“We’ve realized seeing these strands of terrorist activity in Nigeria in the last seven to eight years,” said Mr. Enada. “Now, everybody is asking the Nigerian government to do something, but doing something has not amounted to anything. So we still have a lot of Christian communities, especially, that have been decimated.”
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