VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Nigeria

CALL-IN PRAYER EVENT FOR LEAH SHARIBU Oct. 26, 2019

(Voice of the Persecuted) Leah Sharibu was taken captive on February 19, 2018 by the Islamist militia, Boko Haram. October 26th marks twenty months of Leah’s captivity and concerned citizens will gather in Washington DC, and across the globe, to pray for her safe release and call on governments to act on Leah’s behalf. To give all an opportunity to pray, Persecution Watch has scheduled a call-in event for those unable to attend a physical location. See details below

The Nigerian government was able to negotiate the release of her 104 classmates but because Leah refused to convert to Islam, she remains in captivity and the government has been less than forthcoming about securing her release. Although Nigerian leaders have made occasional pronouncements and assurances throughout her captivity, Leah remains a hostage and her family continues to wait and pray for her release. After false hope and unmet expectations, it is unknown what this Christian girl is having to endure solely for her Christian beliefs. Leah is not alone in her plight. Christians around the world are persecuted daily for their faith, facing threats of beating and death, and are often forced to flee their homes for fear of retribution.

Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch team moderator, who will be leading the call-in event shared,

Nadia Dybvik of Persecution Watch Photo: Voice of the Persecuted

“As a young girl in Italy, I was very shy, didn’t have many friends and often felt lonely and depressed. I remember looking up to the vast and beautiful sky dreaming that somewhere over the clouds was a mighty God in a mighty big mansion. I hoped for Him to look down and take me up with Him. I imagined it was a place of peace flowing with love. I wanted to go there and to be with this mighty God. That was so many years ago and I realize now that l genuinely didn’t know our mighty and loving God back then.

I am no longer that lonely, depressed, shy little girl. 36 years ago, I gave my life to Him and finally became a child of God. He has come into my heart and forgiven me for all the wrongs I have done.

“For God so loved the World that He gave HIs only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

As I look at the picture of this young girl named Leah, my memory brings me back in time when I was her age and my heart cries. If I had known Him then would I stand firm or would I deny Him so that my life would be spared? I hear His Word, “If you deny me, I will deny you”

Oh, what a faith to have at such a young age. Leah knows the Lord as her Savior, and when she looks up in sky, she knows for sure the true Living God. What a mighty work the Lord is doing through this young girl, what a testimony to all. I’ve never met her but love her so dearly. She loves Jesus this I know. I pray that I too will demonstrate my faith in Christ as firmly under all circumstances.

After her kidnapping, at only 14 years old, she wrote a note to her family.

“I know it is not easy missing me…I am confident that one day I shall see your face, if not here then there at the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As I read Leah’s note to her mom, I hear Him whispering a very familiar verse to me,

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” Hebrews 13:3.

How can I not obey? I will remember and I will Pray! I’m asking, “Will you also pray for Leah and the many brothers and sisters in this world suffering for their faith in Christ?” I personally invite you to join the call-in event.

Thank you for standing with Leah and the persecuted church. I look forward to meeting and praying with you on the call!”

Location: Any location from your phone
DATE:
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Time:
1 p.m. EDT
12 p.m. CDT
11 a.m. MDT
10 a.m. PDT
Call Number:  
712-775-7035
Access Code:
281207#

International numbers and Mobile App links available (We encourage the use of the free mobile app)

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

Available International IDOP Prayer Conference Call Connection

(Note: You may experience issues in your country. If you are unable to connect, try using the VoIP dialer available at this link. Dial a number from any of the countries listed at this link to connect to the conference call. In-app language support is available for select countries.

If you would like to host a vigil for Leah or find one near you, please visit pray4leah.org for more information.

Persecution Watch is a prayer call ministry dedicated to praying for the persecuted. The weekly Persecution Watch Prayer Call meets at 9 pm Eastern every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  For more info contact: pwprayercall@gmail.com  

Prayer vigil on October 26, 2019 for Leah Sharibu in Washington D.C. #FreeLeah #ItsTime

A global prayer vigil will take place on October 26, 2019 for Leah Sharibu.  For those unable to attend the D.C. vigil, information is provided on the Pray For Leah website to help you find or host a prayer vigil for Leah in your area.

Leah was abducted by the Boko Haram on February 19, 2018 with more than 100 of her classmates in Nigeria. She was the only Christian who was abducted and the only one who was not released because she refused to deny Christ. It is time to bring her home. Go to http://www.pray4leah.org to find a vigil near you. #Itstime #FreeLeah

Voice of the Persecuted is asking you to pray and to be a voice by spreading the word on social media, at your church, and in your community. Voice of the Persecuted will be at the vigil in Washington D.C.. If you’re attending, we hope to see you there!

We encourage you to also sign the petition urging the president of Nigeria to secure the release of Leah. SIGN HERE

Six Girls, Two Staff Members Kidnapped from Christian-Run High School in Nigeria

Engravers’ College sign in Kakau Daji village, Chikun County, Kaduna state, Nigeria. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – A day before the Kaduna governor said kidnappers terrorizing the state are working with Boko Haram, Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Thursday (Oct. 3) kidnapped six teenage girls and two staff members from a Christian-run high school in north-central Nigeria, sources said.

Suspected to be herdsmen who have carried out numerous kidnappings and attacks in southern Kaduna state, the armed Fulani at 12:20 a.m. invaded Engravers’ College in Kakau Daji village, in Chikun County Local Government Area near Kaduna city, as students and staff members fled into the bushes, the sources said. The eight victims were taken away at gunpoint.

Kaduna Gov. Nasir el-Rufai told media on Friday (Oct. 4) that “bandits,” the term used by officials and Nigerian media wary of connecting the kidnappings to their fellow tribal Fulani, are working alongside elements of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

“We have been receiving intelligence some three months ago that the bandits have connected with some elements of Boko Haram, and they will be targeting schools to kidnap children because they know that that is what makes the news,” El-Rufai said.

Shunom Giwa, vice principal of Engravers’ College, said that five armed herdsmen appeared at the door of his house and spoke with each other in the Fulani language.

“They asked me to lie down, and I did as instructed,” Giwa told Morning Star News by phone. “They then attempted to enter my bedroom and, fully aware that my wife and children were inside, I stood up to distract them, but they asked me to lie down again, which I did.”

A few minutes later, he said, another set of the armed Fulani herdsmen appeared at his house with Joel Adamu, the school’s vice principal academics, and they ordered his colleague to lie on the floor beside him.

“When I discovered that their attention was on my colleague, I just ran into the bush, and on realizing I was escaping, they shot at me, but fortunately they didn’t get me,” Giwa told Morning Star News. “They searched for me without success, and when they couldn’t get me, they started looking for where the students were.”

As the assailants went to the school hostel and forced the door open, Giwa tried to distract them by shouting, “Police, JTF [Joint Task Force] security come, there are kidnappers here!” he said. “On hearing me shouting, they began to shoot at to my direction again. I then ran and jumped over the fence and ran out of the school.”

He remained hiding behind the fence until the sound of barking dogs signaled to him that the assailants must be leaving, he said. He headed toward a school official’s house where female students had gathered after hearing gunshots.

“When we recovered from the shock of what was happening, we started doing a head count to know which students were missing,” Giwa said. “We found that Joel Adamu, the vice principal of academics, the house mistress and six female students were abducted.”

The school, which is open to both Christian and non-Christian students, has a secular curriculum in accordance with Nigeria’s Ministry of Education but includes a Christian perspective, and students take Christian Religious Knowledge as a subject, an official told Morning Star News.

The school has a student population of 100, with rampant insecurity in the state compelling some parents to withdraw their children from the school, Giwa said.

The kidnappers have contacted school officials with their demands for ransom, he said. Initially they demanded 30 million naira (US$82,327) per student before negotiating lower, according to local reports.

“We are trusting God for the protection of the captives and hoping they would be released without being hurt,” Giwa said.

The 15-year-old daughter of Julde Juli was among the abducted students.

“I was shocked on receiving the news of the kidnapping of my daughter and other students,” he told Morning Star News. “I just pray that nothing happens to them, and that they come out alive. I trust that our God is sovereign over all things. We are trusting that through divine intervention our children would be rescued.”

The high school has suspended classes, school Director Samuel Amamchukwu told Morning Star News in a text message.

“We can’t continue with academic activities while the six students and two staff are in captivity,” he said.

Remaining students have returned to their parents, he said.

The village lies in the kidnapping belt of the state and is on the route to Kwanti village, where Morning Star News last year reported the displacement of many Christians due to kidnappings by armed Fulani Herdsmen, according to area residents.

Kaduna State Police Command spokesman Yakubu Sabo said authorities are making efforts to rescue the captives.

“The Command immediately mobilized combined teams of anti-kidnapping, SARS, and conventional police to the area for possible rescue of the victims and arresting the perpetrators of the unfortunate incident,” he said.

Kaduna state Commissioner for Information, Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan said in a statement on Friday (Oct. 4) that Gov. El-Rufai has dispatched a government delegation to sympathize with the school community and assure them that security agencies are working to rescue those abducted.

Boko Haram Executes Two Christian Aid Workers in Nigeria

Screen capture from Islamic State’s Amaq news site of Christian aid workers Godfrey Ali Shikagham (left) and Lawrence Duna Dacighir before their execution by Boko Haram. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – Islamic extremist group Boko Haram released a video last week showing the execution of two Christian aid workers in Nigeria, sources said.

Lawrence Duna Dacighir and Godfrey Ali Shikagham, both members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) in Plateau state, are shown kneeling while three masked, armed men stand behind them in a video posted Sept. 22 on Boko Haram’s Amaq news agency site. The two young men, who had gone to Maiduguri to help build shelters for people displaced by Islamic extremist violence, are then shot from behind.

Speaking in the Hausa language, the middle one of the three terrorists says in the video that they have vowed to kill every Christian they capture in revenge for Muslims killed in past religious conflicts in Nigeria. Dacighir and Shikagham, originally from Plateau state’s Mangu County, were captured by Boko Haram, now called the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), as they carried out their work in displaced persons camps.

Ethnic and religious tensions resulted in large-scale clashes between Muslims and Christians in Jos in 2001 and 2008.

It is not clear from the video, temporarily posted on YouTube, when the two men were executed. Their identities were confirmed by a relative, the Rev. John Pofi, a COCIN pastor.

Pastor Pofi, a cousin of the two executed Christians, told Morning Star News in a text message statement also shared with others that the two Plateau state natives had gone to Maiduguri from Abuja.

“Lawrence and Godfrey left Abuja for Maiduguri in search of opportunities to utilize their skills for the betterment of humanity and paid with their lives,” Pofi said. “We will never get their corpses to bury. The community will have to make do with a makeshift memorial to these young lives cut short so horrifically.”

If the federal government had created economic opportunities for those tempted to join extremist groups and had returned security to the country, his cousins would not be dead now, Pastor Pofi said.

“We must ask ourselves if this is the kind of country we want where young men who are earning an honest living are brutally killed while those who abduct and kill others are invited to dialogue with government and paid handsomely,” he said.

In a letter last week to the United Nations secretary general, attorney Emmanuel Ogebe of the U.S.-Nigeria Law Group, a legal consulting firm with an emphasis on human rights, expressed concern that the Nigerian government did not condemn the killing of the two men even though they were helping to provide shelter for displaced Nigerians.

“Lawrence and Godfrey …were using their skills to provide a basic human need of shelter to others when they were killed,” Ogebe stated. “Your excellency, we wish to draw your urgent attention to the fact that taken together with the execution of aid worker Hauwa  Liman (ICRC) this time last year, the recorded number of aid workers slaughtered by terrorists in Nigeria over the past decade is now in excess of 40.”

Ogebe asserted in his letter that the killing of the two Christians was Boko Haram’s first execution on the basis of “ethnic cleansing.” The two victims were from the predominantly Christian Mwalghavul ethnic group. Previous ethnic/religious clashes took place between the predominantly Muslim Hausa and Fulanis against the predominantly Christian Berom, Irigwe, Afizere, Tarok, Ngas and Mwalghavul peoples.

Ogebe wrote that workers for international aid group Action Against Hunger kidnapped in July issued a distressed plea for government help with no notable administration response. On Wednesday (Sept. 25), Action Against Hunger announced that one of its workers being held hostage had been executed.

“More executions of humanitarian workers could yet occur,” Ogebe wrote to the U.N. “Despite these humanitarian organizations’ resilience in still serving victims, the Nigerian Government has since just last week suspended Action Against Hunger and Mercy Corp on dubious grounds.”

International aid agency Mercy Corps suspended operations in Borno and Yobe states in northeast Nigeria after the Nigerian army closed four of its offices in the region without explanation, the agency announced on Wednesday (Sept. 25).

Ogebe urged the U.N. secretary general to obtain an assurance from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that all hostages will be released before the country’s Independence Day on Tuesday (Oct. 1).

“We also ask that you implore him to lift the suspension on humanitarian groups providing urgent services to victims,” Ogebe wrote. “We urge the secretary general to remind President Buhari of Nigeria’s obligations under international humanitarian law to negotiate the protection of aid workers and non-combatant civilians in its dialogue with BH/ISWAP [Boko Haram/Islamic State in Western Africa Province].

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Ransom Paid, but Kidnapped Pastor’s Wife Is Killed in North-Central Nigeria

Modified Photo: Domenico-de-ga at German Wikipedia

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Fulani herdsmen this month kidnapped and killed a pastor’s wife in north-central Nigeria’s Kaduna state three days after suspected herdsmen killed a Baptist pastor in another part of the state, sources said.

Unaware that Esther Ishaku Katung had been killed after being kidnapped in Bagoma, 122 kilometers (75 miles) west of Kaduna City on Sept. 14, her family paid a 250,000 naira (US$690) ransom before discovering her body, said the Rev. Joseph Hayab, chairman of the Kaduna state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

Esther Ishaku Katung—(Morning Star News courtesy of family

Her husband, the Rev. Ishaku Katung of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) congregation in Bagoma, escaped but was wounded by gunfire when the herdsmen broke into their home on church premises at 11:30 p.m. as they slept, Pastor Hayab said.

“Information we got from some of the kidnapped victims who escaped from the herdsmen’s enclave shows that Esther Katung and two other victims had escaped from the herdsmen’s captivity, but she was recaptured by them,” Pastor Hayab told Morning Star News. “She attempted to escape with two others after they were kidnapped by the herdsmen; this infuriated the herdsmen, leading them to kill her. They broke her legs in order to prevent her from escaping and smashed her head too. This led to her death.”

The kidnappers dumped her corpse in the bush, he said.

“After they had killed her, they were still demanding the ransom without telling her family that they had killed her,” Pastor Hayab said. “It was only after the ransom was paid that it was found by her family that she had been killed by her abductors.”

Baptist Pastor Slain

In Jema’a County about 230 kilometers (142 miles) south of Kaduna City, suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot a Baptist pastor dead on Sept. 11, sources said.

The Rev. Alhamdu Mangadus, pastor of Nasara Baptist Church in Asso, was killed while working on his farm at about 1 p.m., said the Rev. Danladi Boyis Hassan of the ECWA church in the Ungwan Kadara area of Kaduna City.

Given the high level of killings and kidnappings by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna in recent years, Christian leaders suspect herdsmen killed the pastor. Pastor Hassan, a native of the slain pastor’s village, visited the area after the killing and was told that the assailants were Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

“Pray along with the church and family as they mourn the barbaric act by Fulani terrorists,” Pastor Hassan told Morning Star News.

Pastor Hayab of the CAN also said Fulani herdsmen were behind the killing.

“He was shot dead on his farm, and the attackers injured another fellow from Tanda,” he said. “The corpse of the pastor was taken away by the Fulani herdsmen but was eventually recovered in the bush after a frantic search by our brethren in the area.”

Pastor Hayab said the killing of the pastor was one too many for Christians in violence-wracked Kaduna state.

“We are going back to the era of senseless killings. When will people be safe to go out and seek food to feed their families?” he said.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Please keep these suffering brothers an sisters in your prayers.

Decade of Tears and Blood: 10 Years of Boko Haram Terrorism in Nigeria

Bomb attack by Boko Haram in Abuja, Nigeria on April 14, 2014. (Wikipedia, VOA)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A decade after Boko Haram began a bloody campaign to impose sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria, Christian leaders say some areas are still under the control of the terrorists.

This information has been continually confirmed by Voice of the Persecuted sources in Nigeria.

The Rev. Mohammed Abubakar Naga, chairman of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Morning Star News that the terrorists are still active in the northeastern part of the country where the group originated and has displaced thousands of people, effectively closing many churches.

“Gwoza East, especially the hills, has been taken over by Boko Haram,” Pastor Naga said by phone. “The terrorists still attack Christian communities there. This is even with the presence of personnel of the Nigerian army in the area.”

After beginning a violent campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria 10 years ago, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 35,000 civilians, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The agency said 37 aid workers lost their lives in the course of serving those displaced by the attacks.

Two of the many pastors Boko Haram killed in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state include the Rev. Faye Pama Musa, then secretary of the CAN’s Borno state chapter, slain on May 14, 2013 after the terrorists followed him from his church building to his house and shot him to death; and Pentecostal pastor George Ojih, captured in 2009 and beheaded for refusing to recant his Christian faith.

Initially targeting government and police officials as part of its campaign against corruption, the insurgency that began in Maiduguri, Borno state increasingly struck Christian educational institutions, health facilities and worship sites, sometimes destroying entire Christian communities.

The CAN’s Naga, who has pastored Pentecostal Believers Covenant Church in Maiduguri for 35 years, said the Boko Haram uprising has been the greatest challenge to Christians in northern Nigeria. Christians were either killed or forced to flee to other parts of the country or to countries like Cameroon and Niger.

In the 2014, Boko Haram attacked congregations of prominent denominations such as the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), the Church of the Brethren (EYN), Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), and Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Pentecostal churches, Pastor Naga said.

Commonly referred to as Boko Haram, loosely translated as “[Western] education is forbidden,” the group is now officially part of the Islamic State as ISWAP, the Islamic State in West Africa Province.

Genesis

In 2002, Mohammed Yusuf, a public servant with the Borno state government and an ardent Islamic student under the tutelage of Sheik Ja’afar Mahmud Adam in Maiduguri, broke ties with the Islamic cleric and founded his sect.

Based in Maiduguri, Yusuf’s teachings included opposition to Christianity and Western democracy, which he said had their roots in the Bible and Western political philosophy. He labeled them “haram,” or forbidden.

In 2009, shortly after Yusuf beheaded Pastor Ojih as an example to others of what happens to those who refuse to convert to Islam, he and other Boko Haram members were captured and extrajudicially killed.

Abubakar Shekau took over as leader after Yusuf’s death in July 2009. Increasingly sophisticated attacks followed, and in 2015 the group aligned with the Islamic State. Its suicide bombings and other attacks have displaced an estimated 2.3 million people from their homes, and in 2015 the Global Terrorism Index ranked it the deadliest terror group in the world.

Nigeria’s military has retaken most of the 20,000 square miles that Boko Haram had seized in Borno state, but the group continues to carry out kidnappings and guerrilla attacks. In April 2014 the group abducted 276 students from the Government Secondary Girls School in Chibok, Borno state, and on Feb. 19, 2018 kidnapped more than 100 high school girls in Dapchi, Yobe state.

About 100 of the 276 girls kidnapped from Chibok are still missing. Nearly all of the Dapchi girls were released on March 21, 2018 after the government negotiated their freedom, but Boko Haram retained Leah Sharibu, now 16, because she refused to renounce Christ.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Kidnapped Baptist Pastor in Nigeria Freed after 17 Days of Torture

Muslim Fulani herdsmen injured Baptist pastor Elisha Noma while holding him captive. (Morning Star News)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A Baptist pastor kidnapped and tortured last month in Nigeria was released over the weekend after his family and Christian leaders paid a ransom, sources said.

Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Kaduna state who abducted the Rev. Elisha Noma on Aug. 14 received 3 million naira (US$8,181) before freeing him on Saturday (Aug. 31), the chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) told Morning Star News.

“He was released after a ransom was paid following a series of negotiations with the bandits on the ransom,” the Rev. Joseph Hayab told Morning Star News in a text message. “We thank God for his mercies. We pray for God’s intervention in the calamity that seems to have befallen us as a nation.”

Pastor Noma, 60, of the Baptist Church Ungwan Makeri in Kaduna, identified the kidnappers as armed herdsmen. After his release, he received medical treatment for injuries while in captivity.

His left hand was broken, and his captors switched on their phone to let his family hear him cry in pain as they beat, cut and burned him to compel them to pay the ransom, according to CAN. He was left with scars from burns on his head and face.

In August alone, more than 40 pastors in Nigeria were either kidnapped or suffered some form of violence from herdsmen or Boko Haram terrorists, according to figures obtained from CAN.

“We will also continue to call on the government and the security agencies to do everything within their powers to stop the increasing spate of criminality across the country, especially the increasing wave of kidnappings in Kaduna state,” Pastor Hayab told Morning Star News.

James Kantiyok, a deacon at the kidnapped pastor’s church, expressed joy over his release in spite of mistreatment while in captivity.

“We can’t hold back our joy for his freedom, despite all he went through,” Kantihok told Morning Star News. “Let’s all pray for his total recovery as he is currently receiving medical treatment. We thank you all for praying with the family and the church.”

About 20 Muslim Fulani herdsmen kidnapped Pastor Noma and his son, Emmanual Noma, after storming their home at about 1 a.m. on Aug. 14. They released the pastor’s son a few hours later with a demand to raise 20 million naira (US$55,155) in ransom.

The kidnappers later lowered the demand to 7 million naira (US$19,304), Pastor Hayap told Morning Star News at that time.

In the city of Kaduna on Aug. 4, Fulani herdsmen killed pastor Jeremiah Omolewa of Living Faith Church in the Romi New Extension area of the city and kidnapped his wife, a church source told Morning Star News. Attacked along the Kaduna-Abuja highway on their way to Abuja, he was killed when the herdsmen shot at their car after the pastor finished leading three services at his church, the source said.

Pastor Omolewa’s wife was released after the church paid 3 million naira (US$8,273) to the herdsmen as ransom, the source said. A press statement from the church reported that the ransom was paid after negotiations with the herdsmen brought the amount down from 10 million naira (US$27,577). She was released on the Aug. 8 at about 10 p.m.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Nigeria Says Leah Sharibu Is Alive; Herdsmen Attacks Continue

National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria. (Wikipedia)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – More than a month after an aid worker indicated in a video that kidnapped Christian teenager Leah Sharibu had been killed, a government official in Nigeria on Saturday (Aug. 31) said she was alive.

Citing intelligence from security agencies, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu released a statement reaffirming that the government is negotiating with terrorists for the release of Leah and other captives.

“Contrary to false reports, she [Leah] is alive, given assurances from our security agencies, and the government is committed to her safe return, as well as all other hostages to their families,” Shehu said. “Instead of giving up, the government is carrying forward processes that should hopefully yield her release by her captors.”

Lines of communications remain open with the kidnappers of Boko Haram, now called the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), to secure her release, he said.

“With the abduction of loved family and friends, the government understands how difficult these times are for them, but the government is pursuing many options to ensure the safe return of Leah Sharibu,” Shehu said. “The worrying cycle of speculations on whether Leah Sharibu, the kidnapped Dapchi schoolgirl, had been harmed by her abductors is what has made us to speak out.”

Though the government negotiated with Boko Haram for the release of the other girls, Shehu said that the administration does not encourage payment of ransom to secure the release of captives. For this reason, he said, the government was not rushed to yield to demands of the terrorist group.

“Kidnapping for ransom should never be encouraged,” he said. “This means not capitulating to the demands of terrorists; refrain from rewarding their heinous crimes with payment.”

Leah, 16, has been in Boko Haram captivity since Feb. 19, 2018, when she was abducted alongside more than 100 other students of the Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe state, in north-east Nigeria. While the other girls were released in March 21, 2018 after the kidnappers’ negotiations with the government, the terrorists retained Leah because she refused to renounce Christ.

In late July Boko Haram released a video in which a Christian aid worker kidnapped on July 18, Grace Taku, mentioned that Leah and three other Christian women in captivity had been killed.

“I beg that Nigeria government should please, I’m begging again, please do something to see that we’re released, because this had occurred before in this organization, Red Cross, where some ladies were caught – Hauwa and Zipporah, they asked to be released, but because Nigerian [government] did not do anything about it they were killed,” she said in the video. “I’m begging on behalf of all of us here that Nigeria should not allow such to happen to us. And it also happened again with Leah and Alice [Ngaddah], because Nigeria could not do anything about them they were not released, they were also killed.”

In the video, Taku pleads with Christian leaders, the Nigerian government and international agencies to intervene to secure their release.

The Rev. Stephen Baba Panya, president of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) said in a text message to Morning Star News that Christians in Nigeria, and especially in the ECWA to which Leah and her family belong, no longer trust that the government is genuinely working to free her and other captive Christians.

“We no longer rely on the Nigerian government’s assurances, which often amount to nothing,” Panya said. “Instead, as the Scriptures say, the just shall live by faith concerning Leah and many other national issues.”

Panya said he and other Christians must put their trust in God rather than the government.

“Our defense, confidence, is faith in God. We are praying and trusting God to bring back Leah Sharibu, Alice Loksha, Sister Grace, and the remaining Chibok girls back to us safely in Jesus name,” he said. “If God decides to still use the Nigerian government or security agents for that, to God be the glory.”

ECWA General Secretary Yunusa Nmadu, Jr., said the church is happy over news that Leah is still alive. He urged the government to intensify efforts towards securing her release and that of other Christians.

“ECWA welcomes the statement from the federal government of Nigeria reassuring citizens that the world’s most popular prisoner of religious freedom, Leah Sharibu, is still alive,” Nmadu said in a text message to Morning Star News. “We urge the government to do more beyond assurances of her being alive and see to the speedy release of Leah Sharibu.”

The government needs to do more to reduce the insecurity in the country, he added.

“We are slowly sliding into a failed state due to the spate of insecurity, and the government seems to be helpless in the hands of bandits to the extent that some state governments are now holding talks with bandits that should be behind the bars,” he said.

Five Christians Killed

Much of the country’s descent into lawlessness has taken place in Kaduna state, in north-central Nigeria. On Thursday (Aug. 29) Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed five Christians and destroyed many homes in an attack on predominantly Christian Kiri, in Kaduna’s Kaura County, area residents told Morning Star News.

The attack came two years after a herdsmen assault in the same area that displaced many people who had returned to try to start their lives anew.

In last week’s attack, the herdsmen mounted a surprise invasion while most people were still working in their fields, area resident Jude Bako told Morning Star News by phone.

“Five of our people have been killed, and two others are still missing as we do not know where the herdsmen took them to,” Bako said. “The Fulani herdsmen attacked our village while we were still working on our farms. Our people who were in the village at the time were forced to flee for their lives, too.”

Another village resident said he narrowly escaped being killed.

“I escaped being killed by the herdsmen when they attacked us at about 4 p.m.,” Musa Gabriel told Morning Star News. “Four of our people were killed during the attack, and the fifth person died from gunshot wounds yesterday morning, Friday.”

Gabriel said that in the attack two years ago, the herdsmen burned down the worship buildings of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) and ECWA.

Bege Katuka, chairman of the Kaura Local Government Council, confirmed Thursday’s attack.

“Five persons were killed, while two others are still missing,” he said. “A number of houses were destroyed during the attack.”

Police also confirmed the attack.

Kaduna State Police Command spokesman Yakubu Sabo confirmed that four persons were killed in the attack on Thursday (Aug. 29), and that a fifth person died the next day from gunshot wounds.

“On Friday, Aug. 30 while our men were combing the area, they discovered four corpses, and the 35-year-old Daniel, who was injured during the attack, later died, making five people who were killed,” Sabo said.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

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